With a career spanning more than seven decades, Sophia Loren is one of the most enduring silver-screen actresses still working today. But how much do you really know about the Oscar-winning film legend? Here’s a look at 40 things that might surprise you about the lady dubbed the “Italian Marilyn Monroe.”
40. She’s great at Scrabble
Yes, one of the world’s all-time most glamorous actresses sometimes likes nothing more than getting out a word-based board game. Loren is actually something of a master when it comes to Scrabble. In fact, while filming The Voyage the star won a game against co-star Richard Burton. In her memoir, she wrote wryly, “Despite his immense knowledge and huge vocabulary, he succumbed to my supremacy.”
39. She had an unflattering childhood nickname
Loren may have been nicknamed the Italian Marilyn Monroe during her rise to fame in the 1960s. But the silver-screen icon was given a much less flattering moniker in her childhood. Indeed, “Toothpick” was the title given to the inherently shy star as a youngster due to her naturally skinny frame.
38. She said ‘no’ to Cary Grant’s offer of marriage
You can’t imagine many women declining a proposal from Hollywood’s most debonair leading man at the time, Cary Grant. But that’s exactly what Loren did when she was in her early 20s. Grant, who was 30 years Loren’s senior, asked for her hand in marriage after the pair had filmed The Pride and the Passion but was rejected. However, the pair still maintained a close friendship.
37. She’s done time
Who’d have thought that the respectable Sophia Loren would have done time? But after being charged with tax evasion, Loren was given the option to either serve a 30-day prison term or be banished from her Italian homeland. Unsurprisingly, the star chose the former. However, she ended up only spending a little over a fortnight in jail, completing the rest of the prison sentence under house arrest.
36. She once had all her jewelry robbed
A quaint cottage in the heart of the English countryside was the unlikely scene of a robbery in which all of Loren’s jewelry was taken. Indeed, a criminal nicknamed The Cat was reportedly responsible for the theft, which saw the thief break into her room at Hertfordshire’s Country Club. The star was filming The Millionaires alongside legendary comic actor Peter Sellers at the time.
35. She once nearly died from asphyxiation
Loren only just managed to escape with her life during the filming of 1957’s Legend of the Lost. And it wasn’t any of the film’s adventure scenes that were responsible for her near-death experience but a faulty gas stove. The actress was discovered crawling out of her hotel room by co-star Rossano Brazzi after waking up feeling disorientated. Unbeknownst to her, Loren had actually started to asphyxiate due to the gases that were pumping out of the stove.
34. She burns her personal diary each year
Don’t be expecting to see Loren’s personal diaries ever sitting in a bookstore, even though the actress does keep a record of her daily activities. In a 2014 interview with Chris Connelly on Good Morning America, the screen legend revealed that she burns the diary at the close of each year in order to safeguard her privacy.
33. She refused cosmetic surgery as a youngster
Sophia Loren may be widely regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the silver screen. But before her rise to fame, she was encouraged to go under the knife to change her appearance. Loren was advised to make the size of her nose smaller via surgery, in fact. But the star wisely declined to alter the face that would later lead her to fame and fortune.
32. T.S. Eliot’s poetry helped her to learn English
Loren was forced to undergo intense English-language lessons when she landed her first role in a Hollywood film, The Pride and the Passion. And alongside sessions with a personal tutor, the star found the works of esteemed poet T.S. Eliot particularly helpful in her quest to master the language. The star would often use all of her lungpower to shout out his poems while on set of the 1957 movie, in fact.
31. She achieved an Oscar win
You may know that Loren won a Best Lead Actress Oscar in 1961. But were you also aware that her victory was a pioneering one? Indeed, Loren was recognized for her performances in Two Women, an Italian drama set in Rome during World War Two. This made her the category’s first winner from a film that wasn’t in English.
30. She paved the way for celebrity fragrances
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when celebrity fragrances just didn’t exist. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Sophia Loren, we might have been deprived of the latest Britney Spears perfume or David Beckham aftershave. The star is considered to be one of the first ever famous faces to launch their own fragrance, having done so way back in 1981.
29. Her first marriage wasn’t legally recognized for a decade
It turns out that Loren was essentially married to a bigamist for a full ten years. Yes, despite walking down the aisle in 1957 with Carlo Ponti, an Italian film producer much older and much shorter than her, their union wasn’t recognized legally in their homeland until a decade later. That’s because Ponti’s prior nuptials to a different woman hadn’t officially been annulled.
28. She played herself in a biopic
It would take a brave woman to attempt a portrayal of a Hollywood goddess such as Loren. And the star obviously didn’t believe that anyone was up to the challenge for a TV movie adapted from her 1979 autobiography. Indeed, in an unusual move Loren played herself in Sophia Loren: Her Own Story. She took the part of her mother in the same film, too.
27. She appeared in a dozen films with Marcello Mastroianni
Loren certainly had a particular leaning when it came to her co-stars. Indeed, the actress appeared alongside long-term pal Marcello Mastroianni in no less than 12 different films across her career. Vittorio De Sica, Loren’s personal director of choice, also helmed three of these pictures including Matrimonio all’italiana.
26. She had no formal acting training
Loren may have picked up accolades at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Venice and Cannes Film Festivals and, of course, the Academy Awards. But she managed to establish a reputation as an all-time acting great entirely on her own. Indeed, the silver screen legend received no official acting training before making her screen debut.
25. She’s penned two cookbooks
“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti,” goes one of Loren’s best-known quotes. Indeed, the actress has enjoyed a love affair with food for her entire life and credits her grandmother’s Neapolitan cooking as the reason. Of course, she’s no slouch in the kitchen herself: Loren has in fact penned not just one but two cookbooks of her own.
24. She once clashed with Marlon Brando
Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando are unarguably two of the biggest screen icons of the mid-20th century. And in 1967 they shared the screen for the first and only time in A Countess from Hong Kong. But their working relationship was frosty to say the least. Loren was particularly offended by the star when he made a remark about her nostril hair while shooting a love scene.
23. She scored two UK Top 40 hits
Loren’s talents extend far beyond acting. For example, in the early 1960s she reached the UK Top 40 on two occasions thanks to collaborations with seminal comedic actor Peter Sellers. She first entered the top five in 1960 with “Goodness Gracious Me” and followed it up a year later with the curiously titled “Bangers and Mash.”
22. She suffers from stage fright
Loren has no less than 95 screen credits to her name. That’s in stark contrast to her list of stage credits, though, which stands at a big fat zero. If you’ve ever wondered why the esteemed actress has never trod the boards, then there’s a logical explanation. She has crippling stage fright.
21. She’s halfway to an EGOT
Loren is halfway to achieving the coveted EGOT status – in other words, being given an Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony award. Indeed, as well as winning an Oscar, she’s also picked up a Grammy – and for the unlikeliest of collaborations. In 2004 Profokiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus was crowned Best Spoken Word Album for Children. Loren served as narrator on the project alongside two former world leaders: Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton.
20. She flew the flag at the 2006 Winter Olympics
We can’t imagine Sophia Loren ever hurtling down a luge track or launching herself off a ski jump ramp. But the star was still chosen alongside seven other women to fly the flag at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. Writer Isabel Allende and fellow actress Susan Sarandon were two of the notable names who joined her.
19. She used to look after Drew Barrymore
Loren is also apparently responsible for inspiring the career of a much younger Hollywood actress. Indeed, none other than a pre-teen Drew Barrymore used to visit Loren’s Los Angeles ranch during the summertime and has reportedly described the Italian as a role model. The connection came about due to Loren’s friendship with Anna Strasberg, Barrymore’s godmother.
18. She’s a big Napoli fan
Loren is a devoted supporter of Italian soccer club Napoli, so much so that she once promised to strip if they achieved promotion to Serie A. However, the quip backfired when the team, who were then in the second-tier of the Italian league, made the move up to the top division. Loren later backtracked by claiming that her comments hadn’t been serious.
17. She’s referenced in a Bob Dylan song
Loren has been immortalized in song on multiple occasions, in fact. Her name is referenced by one of the world’s most celebrated singer-songwriters in “I Shall Be Free,” from the seminal 1963 LP The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. She’s also namechecked in “Oh Boy,” a track from parody artist Allan Sherman.
16. She has a World Trump Tower apartment
Loren has some pretty impressive neighbors at her New York home such as fellow actor Harrison Ford and one-time star of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter. All three have apartments at the Trump World Tower, which is famously owned by the 45th U.S. President. The building is situated next to the United Nations Plaza on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
15. Her Oscar was stolen
Loren doesn’t appear to have much luck when it comes to keeping her most beloved possessions. As well as having all her cherished jewelry robbed, she also once had the Academy Award she picked up for Two Women stolen from her home in Italy. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences did later give her a substitute, but perhaps rather uncharitably asked Loren to pay for it.
14. She was distantly related to Mussolini
Loren once had ties to the family of her Italian homeland’s most notorious leader, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The actress’ unlikely connection occurred due to her sister, Maria Scicolone, walking down the aisle with Mussolini’s son Romano. The pair were married in 1962 and had two children before splitting in 1971.
13. She missed out on a role in Doctor Zhivago
Loren also came close to adding another classic 1960s movie to her filmography. Indeed, the actress was in the running to take the leading female role in 1965’s Doctor Zhivago. But in the end the part of Lara Antipova was instead given to Julie Christie.
12. She turned down an iconic soap part
The soap world of the early 1980s could have looked very different had Loren not passed on an iconic role. The star rejected the part of Dynasty‘s Alexis Carrington that later went to Joan Collins. And a year later she passed on an offer to play Francesco Gioberti in another U.S. soap opera, Falcon Crest. Loren’s loss proved to be Gina Lollobrigida’s gain.
11. She didn’t accept her Oscar in person
Loren didn’t have the chance to make a speech when she was awarded her Best Actress Academy Award. That’s because she’s one of no less than 14 women who failed to accept their Oscar in person. Among those to have done the same are Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Anne Bancroft, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith and Ellen Burstyn.
10. She has her own symphony
Loren’s son Carlo Ponti Jr. put everyone to shame in 2014 when it came to choosing his mother’s 80th birthday present. For he asked composer Daniel Brewbaker to create an original symphony dedicated to the actress. Ponti Jr. then conducted the piece, “Sinfoniette per Sofia,” when it was showcased for the first time in Napa Valley, California.
9. She was dubbed in the Italian versions of her films
Loren’s family and friends back home rarely got to hear her voice when it came to her English-language films. Indeed, despite being born and raised in the nation, the star was nonetheless often dubbed for the Italian versions of her Hollywood outings. Rita Savagnone and Lydia Simoneschi were the two actresses who were most often used as voice stand-ins.
8. Her husband was only two years younger than her mother
It seems fair to say that Loren once had a thing for older men. As well as her reported dalliance with Cary Grant, 30 years her senior, she also married a man more than two decades older than her. In fact, Carlo Ponti was almost the same age as Loren’s mother, Romilda Villani.
7. She has a lofty title
In stark contrast to her unflattering “Toothpick” nickname as a youngster, Loren is now able to call herself something much grander. Indeed, according to her memoir, the actress is actually the Marquess of Licata Scicolone Murillo. Loren inherited the title due to her wealthy father Riccardo Scicolone’s aristocratic heritage.
6. She was injured in WWII
Loren was only five years old when World War Two started. And she later suffered a war-related injury following a bombing raid on her hometown of Pozzuoli. To be precise, the youngster sustained a head wound after being hit by shrapnel as she fled to a nearby shelter. Loren and the rest of the family soon relocated to live with relatives in Naples as a result.
5. She became a Pirelli pin-up at 71
Loren proved that age ain’t nothing but a number in 2006 when she posed for the provocative calendar made by Pirelli. The star was 71 years young when she was approached to appear in it alongside the likes of Naomi Watts and Penelope Cruz. Loren sported some diamond earrings and a sleek black dress for the shoot.
4. She was once a waitress
Loren once played a waitress in the Italian movie L’Oro di Napoli. But did you know that the actress had real-life experience of the job? Yes, the star once waited on tables and washed dishes as a teenager at the bar her family opened after going back to their war-torn Pozzuoil hometown.
3. Loren competed in Miss Italy
You won’t be too surprised to learn that one of Hollywood’s most glamorous women entered several beauty contests as a youngster. In fact, in 1950 Loren competed in her country’s most well-known, Miss Italy. Six decades on the star returned to the same competition as a judge and dished out advice to those hoping to claim the title.
2. She once received a $1 million Hollywood advance
A $1 million advance would be considered small change by some of today’s A-list actresses. But back in the early 1960s, such a figure was headline news. And yet Loren’s star power was considered to be so great that she was offered that exact amount to take the leading role in historical epic The Fall of the Roman Empire.
1. She sued more than 70 internet sites
Loren once took legal action against not just one but an astonishing 76 different internet sites of an adult nature in 1999. The star had reportedly been left feeling shamed, depressed and humiliated after discovering that images of her had been used without her permission on the offending sites. And as you’d expect, these images featured Loren in varying states of undress.