Sophia Loren born as Sofia Villani Scicolone on September 20, 1934 Rome, Italy, is an Italian actress, who rose above her poverty-stricken origins in postwar Naples to become universally recognized as one of Italy’s most beautiful women and its most famous movie star.
The daughter of Romilda Villani and Riccardo Scicolone, a construction engineer. Scicolone refused to marry Villani, leaving her, a piano teacher and aspiring actress, without support. Loren’s parents had another child together, her sister Maria, in 1938. Loren also has two younger half-brothers, Giuliano and Giuseppe, on her father’s side. Romilda, Loren, and Maria lived with Loren’s grandmother in Pozzuoli, near Naples, to survive.
During World War II, the harbor and munitions plant in Pozzuoli was a frequent bombing target of the Allies. During one raid, as Loren ran to the shelter, she was struck by shrapnel and wounded in the chin. Subsequently, the family moved to Naples and begged distant relatives to take them in.
After the war, Loren and her family returned to Pozzuoli. Grandmother Luisa opened a pub in their living room, selling homemade cherry liquor. Villani played the piano, Maria sang and Loren waited tables and washed dishes. The place was very popular with the American GIs stationed nearby.
When she was 14 years old, Loren entered a beauty contest in Naples and, while not winning, was selected as one of the finalists. Later she enrolled in acting class and was selected as an extra in Mervyn LeRoy’s 1951 film, Quo Vadis, launching her career as a motion picture actress. She eventually changed her name to Sophia Loren.
In 1962, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Two Women, becoming the first actress to win an Academy Award for a non-English-speaking performance. Loren has won 50 international awards, including two Oscars, five Golden Globe Awards, a Grammy Award and a BAFTA Award. Her other films include The Pride and the Passion (1957), Houseboat (1958), El Cid (1961), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Man of La Mancha (1972), The Cassandra Crossing (1976), Prêt-à-Porter (1994), Grumpier Old Men (1995), and Nine (2009).
In 1999, Sophia Loren was listed by the American Film Institute on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars as one of 25 American female screen legends of all time. In 2002, she was honored by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) at its annual Anniversary Gala and was inducted into its Italian American Hall of Fame.
Before working in the cinema, Sofia Scicolone changed her name to Sofia Lazzaro for work in the foto-romanzo, popular pulp magazines that used still photographs to depict romantic stories. Her first film role was as an extra, one of many slave girls in the American production of Quo Vadis? (1951). Under the tutelage of producer Carlo Ponti (her future husband), Sofia Scicolone was transformed into Sophia Loren. Her career was launched in a series of low-budget comedies before she attracted critical and popular attention with Aida (1953), in which she lip-synched the singing of Renata Tebaldi in the title role.
Loren’s primary residence has been in Geneva, Switzerland since late 2006. She also owns homes in Los Angeles and New York. Loren first met Carlo Ponti in 1950 when she was 15 and he was 37. They married on September 17, 1957. However, Ponti was still officially married to his first wife Giuliana under Italian law because Italy did not recognize divorce at that time. The couple had their marriage annulled in 1962 to escape bigamy charges. In 1965, Ponti obtained a divorce from Giuliana in France, allowing him to marry Loren on April 9, 1966.
The couple had two sons: Carlo Ponti Jr. (born December 29, 1968) and Edoardo Ponti (born January 6, 1973).
Loren remained married to Carlo Ponti until his death on January 10, 2007 of pulmonary complications.
When asked in a November 2009 interview if she is ever likely to marry again, Loren replied “No, never again. It would be impossible to love anyone else.”
Her daughters-in-law are Sasha Alexander and Andrea Meszaros. Loren has two grandchildren: Lucia Ponti and Vittorio Ponti.