Sophia’s birth name is Sofia Scicolone. Changing her name to Sophia Loren was a turning point in the actress’s early career, the surname was inspired by Swedish film star Märta Torén.
Following early screen tests, it was recommended that Sophia have cosmetic surgery to reduce the size of her nose. Her eyes and mouth were also deemed too large to photograph well. Sophia adamantly refused—a wise choice for one of the all-time great screen beauties.
Sophia took a crash course in the English language with a personal instructor before making her first American film, The Pride and the Passion (1957). She also found that reading the poems of T. S. Eliot on the set at the top of her voice helped.
Sophia is a wonderful cook, mostly inspired by her grandmother’s Neapolitan kitchen. She has even written 2 cookbooks. And her famous quote about her amazing figure? “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”
She made 12 movies with Marcello Mastroianni, her great lifelong friend and favorite costar. Three of those were directed by her favourite director, Vittorio De Sica.
Sophia was married to one of the all-time great film producers of Italy, Carlo Ponti, and their son Edoardo has taken up the family business as a successful director. She gave an award-winning performance under his direction, in 2014’s Human Voice.
She played herself in a television biopic about her life—an incredibly rare exploit for a star. It was based on her 1979 memoir, Sophia: Living and Loving: Her Own Story.
She also portrayed her own mother (a beauty who once won a Greta Garbo lookalike contest) on screen not once but twice. The first time was in the same film in which she played herself; the second time in 2010, when she costarred in the Italian TV miniseries My House is Full of Mirrors, based on the memoirs of Sophia’s sister, Maria.
Sophia was ahead of her time in terms of self-care and natural beauty treatments. She talked about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, body-brushing, yoga, and eastern medicine decades before they became fads.
Sophia was the first actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for a foreign film. Okay, even if you knew this one before, this accomplishment awarded for her heart-wrenching performance in Two Women (1960) bears repeating.
Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style by Cindy de la Hoz (Running Press, £23.99) is published on 28th September.