Sophia Loren

1. –    Lucia Bosé, La Signora senza Camelie (US: The Lady Without Camelias), 1953.     While Michelangelo Antonioni sued Gina Lollobrigida for quitting the beauty-queen-turns-actress role in his Italian movie biz satire, he considered beauty-queen-turned-extra Sofia Scicolone until deciding on Miss Italy, 1947.The film still flopped.

2. –    Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.    Although a trifle old at 23- and very lusty -for the Maid of Orleans, the tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger was intrigued by the lates tItalian goddess. He also looked at fellow Italians Lucia Bosé (26) and Claudia Cardinale (the right age at 19). I  nstead of Joan, Sophia used 1957 to launch her three-pronged entry into Hollywood fame: Legend of the Lost, The Pride and the Passion, Boy On A Dolphin.

3. – Eva Marie Saint, North By Northwest, 1958.    Oh calamity! Cary Grant’s  pride had fallen heavily for Sophia’s passion in 1957. He accepted her (after she refused to wed him) in Houseboat, 1958, and fell for her again, even offering her husband-to-be Carlo Ponti four free films if he’d let her go. Spurned a second time, Cary wanted no more of her, no matter what MGM wanted. Alfred Hitchcock stuck to his blondes… and “acted just like a rich man keeping a woman, I supervised the choice of her wardrobe in every detail. You know, just like Jimmy Stewart did with Kim Novak in Vertigo.” “We didn’t talk business at all,” Saint told the New York Times, 1999, “but by the time the lunch was over, I was Eve Kendall. To this day, I’m fascinated that he saw me as a sexy spy-lady.” (And no Hitch hanky-hanky: “he was very protective of me.” Indeed, he called Saint “the holiest of actresses.”). And Sophia made 1965 the Hitchcockian Arabesque with Gregory Peck, from the Hitch list for the Grant’s North West  role.

4. – Jeanne Moreau, Jovanka e le altre (US: Five Branded Women, Italy-US, 1959.   With their heads shaved for sleeping with German soldiers during WWII, five Yugoslav women then bravely fought for their homeland with the very partisans who had humiliated them.  Also up for the  heroines: Loren, Claire Bloom, Ava Gardner, Julie Harris, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Barbara Nichols, Lee Remick.  (Moreau and Barbara Bel Geddes were not shaven for the film, they  wore bald-wigs). 

5. –   Mylène Demongeot, Les trois mousquetaires/TheThree Musketeers,France,1961.   Realisateur Philippe De Broca’s fourthfilm, a lavish Dumas special – Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, etc – was sideswiped by a smaller quickie production. Belmondo and De Broca made Cartouche, instead.

6. –   Joan Collins,The Road To Hong Kong,1962.     For once, Bob Hope did not get his way with a pin-up rave. La Lollo and Brigitte Bardot also refused the Hope-Crosby road finale. Things had changed. Pin-ups were actresses and road movies were, soon enough,Wim Wenders.

7. –    Rosanna Schiaffino, The Victors, 1963.    Sophia had replaced Ingrid Bergman in writer-producer Carl Foreman’s TheKey, 1958, but pulled out of his one-off directing gig, when she was charged with bigamy after the Vatican refused to recognise her producer-husband Carlo Ponti’s Mexican divorce and their marriage.

8. – Claire Bloom, The Outrage, 1963.    MGM wanted Sophia, but director Martin Ritt said that she could deliver the sexuality but not the fragility. An odd comment as she’d delivered enough of both to win Best Actress at the 1958 Venice festival in his  Black Orchid.  She was lucky to escape this dreadful re-hash of Kurosawa’sRashomon.   Bloom was OK, she’d had played  the  role on Broadway, but Paul Newman as a Mexican rapist???

9. –    Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra, 1963.

10 –    Elizabeth Taylor, The VIPs, 1963.     Playwright Terence Rattigan wanted Sophia as the runaway wife held up by fog at London Airpor t(based on Vivien Leigh’s attempt to flee Laurence Olivier for Peter Finch). “Let Sophia stay in Rome,” said Liz and once mild-mannered Anthony “Puffin” Asquith succeeded Vincente Minnelli as director,Liz took overthe filming. And the editing.


11 –    Brigitte Bardot, Le Mépris (US: Contempt) France, 1963.  
Rome producer Carlo Ponti  desired  a film by Jean-Luc Godard. (Why?) French New Wave auteur chose Alberto Moravia’s English-titled novel, A Ghost at Noon… for Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. Hey, this is a Ponti product, so it has to be his missus, Sophia Loren, and her best partner, Marcello Mastroianni. Jamais, said Godard. Ponti suggested  Monica Vitti. + Raf Vallone.  But he was shooting The Cardinal and, according to Godard’s then wife, Anna Karina, Vitti “ turned up more than an hour late, staring out of the window like she wasn’t interested at all, so he went back to his original idea.” He’d long been looking for a Bardot subject.  So, BB + Sinatra? Non, she preferred  + Michel Piccoli. They  first worked together   eight years earlier in René Clair’s Les Grandes Manoeuvres, 1955.“She’s a  loyal girl,” agreed  Godard.  “Without her OK,  the film would never have happened – it’s the first time she acted her real age, 29.  She was extraordinaire.” Hence, Le mépris remains  her most frequently seen movie on French TV. Martin Scorsese still loves it. It has grown increasingly, almost unbearably, moving to me,” he told Criterion. “It’s a shattering portrait of a marriage going wrongalso a lament for a kind of cinema that was disappearing one of the most frightening great films ever made.


12 –    Elke Sommer, A Shot in the Dark, 1963. After The Millionairess, Peter Sellers didn’t want to work with anyone other than his “lover.”Except poor Sophia was his lover only in his wildest fantasies.  When he couldn’t win Napoleon opposite her Madame Sans-Gêne, or the snooty valet who weds her Countess From Hong-Kong, he simply haunted her Euro sets like a lovelorn puppy – during The Fall of the Roman Empire and even bothering her most important work, Two Women.  Sophia never complained – “Nobody else has reached his level and his originality”- and when running into UK journalists, like me,she would always ask: “How’s Peter?”

13 –    Anita Ekberg, 4 For Texas, 1963.  Co-stars Andress and Anita Ekerg allegedly made nude tests. Clearly, Sophia (nor her suggested partner Gina Lollobrigida) would never  to agree to that – not even for compagni  like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. (Not even for $1m, either).  Because she knew it was, basically, a load of old rubbish Director Robert Aldrich rewrote the script. “But whatever anyone did to it, it would still be a disaster.”

14 – Kim Novak, Of Human Bondage, 1964.     “Sex appeal is 50% what you’e got and 50% what people think you’ve got.” That’s Loren talking – “the ladyest damn lady you saw,” as Stella Stevens aimed to be in The Ballad of Cable Hogue.  

15 –  Julie Christie, Doctor Zhivago, 1965.
Rome producer Carlo Ponti secured the rights to Boris Pasternak’s1958 Nobel P rize wining novel, based not only on Russia’s revolution and Stalin’s Great Purge of freedom, but the married writer’s long affair with the poet Olga Ivinskaya.  Ponti signed David Lean to direct Mrs P, Sophia Loren, as Olga. Or Lara by now.  “Too tall,” snapped Lean.  But:  “If anyone can convince me she’ a virgin, I’ll let her play the part.” Her husband kept his  choices – Loren-Newman – for  Lady L, instead. Not the same thing at all!   They then looked at Jane Fonda, not keen on spending nine months in Spain (Rod Steiger was there for a year), Deborah Kerr (“too old”), Sarah Miles (soon to wed Lean’s scenarist, Robert Bolt) and, when MGM was trying to cut costs, the Metro starlet Yvette Mimieux. Fonda changed her mind, but too late (and how she regretted it ever after) because  David Lean called John Ford about the British girl in his Young Cassidy, while everyone else (and soon enough, Lean himself) were entranced by the same girl in Billy Liar… with her Darling Oscar around the corner.  The incandescent Julie Christie! (Billy Liar, himself, Tom Courtenay, became the young  revolutionary  Pasha).

16 –    Kim Novak, The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flandersophia’s , 1965.    The 1961  choice  for Daniel Defore;Moll, Kim Novakm, who  quickly retired after a critical bashing. Derek Winnert, for example said she “flounders as Flanders.”

17 –    Abby Dalton, The Plainsman, TV, 1966.    Wow! Loren and McQueen – that could have been interesting!  Universal wanted Sophia and Steve as  Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok.  Opposite Guy Stockwell‘s Buffalo Bill and Leslie  Nielsen’s General Custer in a mild re-hash of CB DeMille’s 1936 classic.  The  cold tea duo of Dalton and Don Murray were far from Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.

18 – Ursula Andress, Casino Royale, 1966.   

19 –  Lisa Gastoni, L’homme qui rit, France, 1966.    Carlo Ponti was setting up the first talkie version of the obscure, 1869 Victor Hugo story when he realised Sophia was too old for the Juliet-style teenager Déa – and too sweet for the dreadful Duchess Josiane. He switched gears and stars (Loren, Robert Hossein) to re-making Madame Sans-Gene, 1962.  Spaghetti Western director Sergio Corbucci helmed the first talkie version, when Gwynplaine became Angelo and Josiane… Lucrezia Borgia, no less!

20 –    Anna Karina, Lamiel, France, 1967.     With his 1961 Musketeers in ruins, Paris  producer Alexandre Mnouchkine tried to move Loren and Jean-Paul Belmondo from Dumas to Stendahl – but the unfinished book had script problems.For six years.


21 –    Elizabeth Taylor, The Taming of the Shrew, 1967.      Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli’s initial idea was Europe’s greatest romantic duo: Sophia and Marcello Mastroianni as Kate and Petruchio.  His agent, Dennis van Thal,  told Franco to think British if he really wanted to be an international film-maker. “Would have been very difficult to do it with another actress,” commented Burton.“You can throw your wife about but it’s difficult to throw, say, Sophia Loren around.”

22 –  Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.    

23 – Elizabeth Taylor, The Comedians, 1967.     Richard Burton was against Liz taking such a small role. “They conned me,: she said.  “They got me on the strength of that argument: You don’t want anybody else doing those kissing scenes with Richard, do you?” Burton got to kiss Loren in two later films, 1974’s Il viaggio/The Journey and the (totally unnecessary, wholly sacrilegious) Brief Encounter re-make,

24 –    Jane Fonda, Barbarella, 1968.     After Brigitte Bardot refused, producer Dino de Laurentiis wrote asking Sophia to be Jean-Claude Forest’s sf heroine. Then, realisateur Roger Vadim said: “This could be terrific.”  It wasn’t. 

25 –    Claudia Cardinale, C’era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-US, 1968.   At one time, Carlo Ponti wanted to forcee his way into the production.  This meant, of course, that the Missus would have the first real female lead in a Sergio Leone Western. “Sophia is an actress I appreciate very much, but I do not see her as a prostitute from New Orleans.  Naples, maybe. Besides coming from Tunis, Claudia is more French.”  And CC was never better.

26 – Joanna Pettet, The Best House in London, 1968.  In Victortian times, the government tries to take the whores off the streets and into the world’s #1 brothel. That was the Italian  government when Carlo Ponti’s production was Best House in Milan for his wife, Sopha, opposite either Marcello Mastroianni or Vittorio Gassman. (Like who elser?) Ponti switched it to London with a lower budget and lesser stars: Joanna Pettet and David Hemmings. In the first MGMovie to get (laughable) X rating. 

27  – Anne Heywood, La Monaca di Monza/The Nun of Monza, Italy, 1969.    Director Luchino Visconti talked to Sophia about his version. He just never got around to making it.


  (Clic to enlarge)  

* The role was her’s. Sophia Loren even made tests to find the best mediaeval wimple. Finally, she never found  the time to be The Nun of Monza (for Luchino Visconti or any other director) in her  mid-60s cycle of comedies with Marcello Mastroianni. The British Anne Heywood went to Monza, instead.  And Sophia wimpled later (above) in Bianco, rosso e… or White Sister, 1972.

[© Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Columbia Films SA, 1972]



28 –    Sylva Koscina, Hornet’s Nest, Italy-US, 1970.    And the idea ofworking with Sophia was the reason Rock Hudson had agreed to Italy’s anti-war thriller.

29 –   Vanessa Redgrave, Mary, Queen of Scots, 1971.  The Scottish queen was always  intended by producer Hal B Wallis for Genevieve Bujold.  She was not keen on another executed 16th Century royal, having already been beheaded as Henry VIII’s second wife, Ann Boleyn, in A Thousand Days.  Wallis next looked over  Loren(!),Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda, Maggie Smith.  Redgrave (first booked for Elizabeth I) was sixth choice.  

30 – Hildegard Neil, Antony and Cleopatra, 1971.   Despite a few thought about havjng Orson Welles directing Marlon Brando in a reprise of  his 1952 Mark Antony, Charlton Heston grabbed  both roles – he was one of the producers, after all!  Finding his Cleo was more difficult. He first thought of Anne Bancroft, and it was her husband, Mel Brooks, who said no thank you. Next: Diana Rigg, Portia in the 1969 Julius Caesar. “Charley Hero” then shuffled through Sophia Loren (the  El Cid co-star he never got on with), the Greek Irene Papas and four  other  true Brits: Glenda Jackson,  Vanessa Redgrave, Susannah York – and signed the less expensive Neil. The film was, sang The Guardian critic Derek Malcolm, “The Biggest Asp Disaster in the World.


31 – Susannah York, Images, 1972.       Director Robert Altman tried to his own Persona over a decade or more. With Sandy Dennis in Vancouver, Julie Christie in London, Loren in Milan – finishing with a pregnant Susannah in Dublin.Sophia and Altman got it on 22 years later with hisPrêt-à-Porter, 1994.

32 –    Florinda Bolkan, Una breva vacanza (US: A Brief Vacation), Italy-Spain, 1973.    Not like Vittorio De Sica to reject La Loren but…  According to his producer Arthur Cohn, Loren, Jane Fonda and Liz Taylor were all fighting to be Clara Mataro. Sophia was back inhis next – and final – film, Il viaggio (UK: The Journey; US: The Voyage), 1974. Nor their best.

33 –    Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Class, 1973.  With a title like that, it just had to  had to be offered to Cary Grant. And La Sophia. Like, who else? But…  “Ten years ago I would have made it in a second.” Not now. He was retired and he meant it . It was, he said, time.   In her first comedy, Glenda Jackson won her second Oscar –  opposite  George Segal replacing Roger Moore due to his 007 in  Live and Let Die. “We were an off-the-wall, unexpected couple,” Segal told me in Paris. “Mel Frank [writer-producer-director] put us together.”

34 –   Liv Ullmann, 40 Carats, 1973.     Before he bowed out of the project, William Wyler talked of Sophia for the fortysomething woman involved with a twentysomething guy during a Greek vacation. But he also spoke of: Audrey Hepburn, Glenda Jackson, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Joanne Woodward. Oh yes, and… Doris Day! 

35 –    Faye Dunaway, After The Fall, 1974.    Ultra-Italian Sophia as all-American Marilyn Monroe?  Yes – in 1964. “On Broadway, the girl who played it (Elia Kazan’s wife,Barbara Loden) looked too much like Marilyn, whose story it was alleged to be.  I think Arthur Miller wants to get away from that in the film.” Dunaway did it for where Loren was soon headed: TV.

36 –    Susannah York, That Lucky Touch, 1975.   Two weeks before shooting started, Roger Moore’s producer Dimitri de Grunwald met Sophia and her producer (and husband) Carlo Ponti in Paris – and was told: “Sophia is not doing the film.” She was keen (she always complained there were too few leading men taller than she was).  Ponti probably wanted half of the film.  Roger called up his recent Gold co-star.  Not even Ponti could rescue this tepid caper.

37 –   Lupita Ferrer, The Children of Sanchez, 1978.   Announced in 1964 as Anthony Quinn’s dream film.By the time Hal Bartlett started directing, Sophiawas too old for the Sanchez daughter supporting her studies by nightclub dancing… 

38 –    Dolores Del Rio, The Children of Sanchez, 1978.   …and not really old enough to be Quinn’s mother-in-law. Hal’s Venuzuelian actress-wife took over as the daughter. (Hmm, never saw that coming!) Ten years earlier, Loren and Del Rio appeared  together in Francesco Rossi’s C’era una volta, Italy-France

39 –    Goldie Hawn, Viaggio con Anita (Travels With Anita and Lovers and Liars), Italy-France, 1978.  More than 20 years earlier, Federico Fellini considered making the Tulilo Pinello story after his Oscar-winning Le notti di Cabiria  (Njghts of Cabiria). Anita would be Cabiria, herself, his wife Giulietta Masina, opposite Marcello Mastroianni.  But then Fellini had a much better idea for Marcello. La Dolce Vita!.   More than 20 years later, “Hello,” said Sophia  on the phone to Federico Fellini. “it’s Anita.”  Not! Anita’s voyage grew from a (long) stanza axed from the  La dolce vita script- with Marcello Mastroianni and his lover, taking a (longer) Cadillac trip to his father’s deathbed…  Maestro Mario Monicelli  dug up the old project and jiggled it for the Arabesque couple, Sophia – representing Nature and Gregory Peck (or Marcello) . Finally, they became Goldie and Giancarlo Giannini. With a transatlantic, Woody Allenish title: Lovers and Liars.  And it flopped. (Without malice, Fellini  had satirised The Pontis as the Mezzabottis  in 8½, 1962). Italy-France, 1978.  

40 –    Joan Collins, Dynasty, TV, 1981-1989.     “Nobody takes me to bed and to the cleaners in one night…”  Liz Taylor, Raquel Welch and Sophia were all seen as Alexis (originally Madeleine) Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan, an empty cypher until Joan Collins took her on and (as a Dallas fan) suggested that Alexis should be a bitchy JR Ewing.   But hubby, Carlo Ponti, wanted too much money. Same again when another soap came acalling…


41 –   Gina Lollobrigida, Falcon Crest, TV, 1984.   This time the role was Francesca Gioberti, Jane Wman’s secret half-sister threatening to control Falcon Crest – in short, Alexis Take Two.  With a drop dead gorgeous wardrobe over thirteen episodes,. La Lolla filled in – just the five shows, though.

42 – Jacqueline Bisset, Anna Karenina, 1985.     An old dream of her producer-husband Carlo Ponti (with George Cukor directing) was churned into a TV soap.

43 –    Marina Vlady, Bordelo, Greece, 1985.     Writer-director Nicos Koundouros cashed in on Sophia’s taxing days in jail in 1982 to announce she wouldplaythe famous Crete brothel keeper Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova in Zorba The  Greek). Opposite, he said, Isabelle Adjani, James Mason, Peter Ustinov…  Hah!   Vlady was aghast at how Koundouros made nonsense of her role.  Apart from the Thessaloniki festival (twice in 1985 and 1998!), the film was never seen anywhere.

44 –    Sharon Stone, Blood and Sand, 1989.     Announced in the late 50s, The second Hollywood re-make of Valentino’s matador was announced in the late 50s – with future producer Robert Evans in the suit of lights oppposite Loren.

45 – Claudia Cardinale, Son of the Pink Panther, 1992.   Oh, what a woeful mess as director Blake Edwards tried yet again to keep his Panther annuity alive. He chose the Italian Benigni –  far less subtle than Peter Sellers – but a good excuse to resurrect Claudia Cardinale from the first film, The Pink Panther, 1962,as his mother, Maria Grambelli, following an affair with Clouseau. Except,  of course, CC was an Indian princess  in the first film and Maria was Elke Sommer in the second, A Shot in  the Dark, 1963.  So much funnier than  this  shot in the head. However, CC was a better taste notion  than Edwards inviting Loren to be Momma, inspired by Sellers having forever boasted (fantasised, actually)  of   an affair with Sophia! In  fact, she was to be Maria back in 1962, until  husband  Carlo Ponti squashed that idea to stop Setllers publicly fantasising anew about Sophia.   

46 – Virna Lisi, La Reine Margot, France-Italy-Germany, 1993.   Producteur Claude Berriwanted an illustrious global star as the powerful Catherine de Médicis, circa 1572.  Realisateur Patrice Cherau went to the inevitable choices – and both Loren and Monica Vitti turned him down.  Lisi, largely forgotten since her ’60s’ heyday, saw the potential of thew role. And won Best Actress at the 1994 Cannes Festival when a certain gnashing of teeth could be heard all the way from Rome. 

47 –    Ann-Margret, Grumpy Old Men, 1993.     After the death of Audrey Hepburn, the team thought of an Italian but… “One of the first things we thought of when they decided to make a sequel was: Great! Now we can cast Sophia,” said Grumpy maker Donald Petrie (who quit Grumpier for a Whoopi Goldberg film). “I wanted to work with Jack and Walter,” said Loren of Lemmon and Matthau. “They’re maybethe only two actorsI didn’t work with yet.”

48 –    Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County, 1995.    Also short-listed for author Robert Waller’s Italian war bride Francesca were:Jacqueline Bisset, Claudia Cardinale, Catherine Deneuve, Jessica Lange, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Sarandon. After tentative efforts by directors Bruce Beresford, Mike Newell, Sydney Pollack and the mighty Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood took over the helm. And casting. In a trice. 

49 – Sophie Marceau, Anna Karenina, 1996.    Mel, Gibson  managed what Carlo Ponti couldn’t. Ponti  tried to set up the Tolstoy novel for the missus and director George Cukor in the 70s. Gibson’s Icon company  gave the lead to his French Braveheart co-star – with director Bernard Rose. Not quite the same thing,.. But  the first Hollywood version to be shot inside Russia, all the same.

>>> Tribute

“Sophia is gorgeous, a marvelously put-together machine. But she’s a grievous card sharp; in Naples, they’re born with a pack of cards.    Of course, she can do this [he sticks a haughty nose in the air] but give her a nudge and she’s the funniest woman in the world. A helluva woman!”– Peter O’Toole, the New York Times, 1972.

And I can’t find anyone to disagree with him. Certainly not me.  I tripped over my feet  when first meting her in Paris for my first book  what (else but The Films of Sophia Loren).  Or as Bond and Superman writer Tom Mankiewicz put it in his auto-bio: She was so stunning to look at, your hair hurt.”


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  49