The Film That Lit My Fuse is a Deadline video series that aims to provide an antidote to headlines about industry uncertainty by swinging the conversation back to the creative ambitions, formative influences, and inspirations of some of today’s great screen artists.
Every installment asks the same five questions. Today’s subject is the Oscar-winning star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Sophia Loren, who returns to screens this year with The Life Ahead on Netflix, which is directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti.
Loren grew up during the Second World War in Pozzuoli, a town neighboring Naples, and she says that cinema was the escape from relentless bombing and an impossible life. It was the Hollywood of the ’40s and ’50s that first inspired her, and the films of Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power—like Robert Mamoulian’s Blood and Sand—as well as the dancing of Fred Astaire that transported her from her painful upbringing and started her dreams of a better life.
She wouldn’t have long to wait; by the time she was 15, Loren was already establishing herself as a beauty pageant contestant, and she and her mother came up with an excuse to go to Rome and visit the historic Cinecittà studios, simply because she believed so much in her drive to become an actress. She soon met Carlo Ponti, the legendary Italian producer who would eventually become her husband, and he saw her potential as a star. It was Ponti who introduced her to other key figures in her life, like the actor and director Vittorio De Sica and Marcello Mastroianni, with whom she worked time and again throughout her career.
De Sica, she says, was the director who gave her the confidence that she could succeed. He also directed her to an Oscar – the first for Best Actress awarded to a role not in the English lanuage – in 1960’s Two Women, and she gets choked up relating the emotional experience she felt taking on the role, playing a mother for the first time at just 25, and striking the emotional depth of her character experiencing the horrors of the tail end of the war.
It has been more than a decade since Loren last graced our screens, and she has spent the latter half of her career focussed primarily on being a mother and a grandmother. After a year of pandemic, it is her sons, the classical conductor Carlo Ponti Jr. and the film director Edoardo Ponti, who keep her optimistic about the future, as she witnesses their own paths to success. And Edoardo, she says, has become another key relationship in her working life like De Sica, encouraging her to find the depths of spirit and resolve that have made Sophia Loren one of cinema’s most iconic actresses.
Check out the video above.