Hollywood’s “Golden Age” produced some of the industry’s most legendary stars, but none are perhaps more recognizable and beloved than Sophia Loren. Dubbed the “Italian Marilyn Monroe,” Loren’s style, charisma, and sultry good looks have made her an industry mainstay for nearly seven decades and established her as one of the brightest stars of her generation.
At 84 years old, Loren is still firmly entrenched in the spotlight, yet even now there are still secrets about the iconic actress that even her biggest fans don’t know. After reading these sizzling, surprising, and scandalous facts about Sophia Loren, Old Hollywood will never look the same way again…
1. Can’t Change Me: Early on, a number of people actually tried to convince the legendary actress to reduce the size of her nose. Loren refused, and her face went on to become one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1960s.
2. Burn After Reading: Celebrity secrets always have a way of getting out, but you can bet anything Sophia Loren jots down in her diaries will stay between her and those pages. That’s because the starlet burns her private journals at the end of each year.
3. Songbird: Sophia Loren also boasts a pair of Top 40 hits in the U.K. alongside comedian Peter Sellers. Their 1960 single “Goodness Gracious Me” reached top five on the chart, and a year later they released the equally popular “Bangers and Mash.”
4. First Step to Stardom: In her youth, Sophia Loren (middle right) entered a number of beauty pageants, including Miss Italy. In 2010, a full 60 years after her last pageant, Loren returned to competition, only this time she served as a judge.
5. Close Call: Loren nearly lost her life during the filming of 1957’s Legend of the Lost, though the adventure film’s stunts had nothing to do with it. Apparently, the stove in her hotel room had a gas leak and the actress was forced to crawl to safety.
6. Sing of Sophia: Beautiful women have been immortalized in song for centuries, so it’s no surprise to learn that Sophia Loren has been name-dropped in a handful of popular tunes, including “I Shall Be Free” off Bob Dylan’s eponymous debut album.
7. Do-It-All: Why audition actresses for a biopic when you can just get the real thing instead? This was the logic behind the adaptation of Loren’s 1979 autobiography, Sophia Loren: Her Own Story, in which the actress played both herself and her mother.
8. Back to School: A native Italian speaker, Loren was forced to learn English after landing her first Hollywood role in 1957’s The Pride and Passion. In addition to language classes, she also studied the poems of T.S. Eliot, which she’d shout aloud while on set.
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9. Butting Heads: Pairing Hollywood stars in a film might seem simple, but that wasn’t the case when Loren joined Marlon Brando in 1967’s A Countess From Hong Kong. Their working relationship was tense, and during a love scene Brando made an offensive remark about Loren’s nose hairs.
10. Wait and See: Although she’s been called the “Italian Marilyn Monroe,” Loren had a much less flattering nickname as a child: “Toothpick.” Little did those bullies know that this shy, skinny girl would later become an international star.
11. The One That Got Away: Not many people can say they’ve turned down Cary Grant, but you can count Sophia Loren among them. After filming The Pride and Passion, Grant – who was 30 years Loren’s senior – asked for her hand in marriage, to which she respectfully declined.
12. Thank Goodness For Insurance: Even the most high-profile stars aren’t immune to theft. Loren once fell victim to a burglar known as “The Cat,” who robbed her hotel room of all her jewelry while she was filming The Millionaires.
13. Good Girl Gone Bad: Charged with tax evasion in 1982, Loren was given the choice to serve a 30-day prison sentence or face exile from her home country of Italy. The starlet chose the former, and after 18 days she finished out her sentence under house arrest.
14. An Italian Scandal: Despite marrying film producer Carlo Ponti in 1957, their union wasn’t recognized in Italy until ten years later. That’s because Ponti was actually still legally married to another woman!
15. Global Icon: She’s no professional athlete, but Sophia Loren did receive an invitation to the Winter Olympics in 2006. Alongside Susan Sarandon and Chilean author Isabel Allende, Loren flew the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony.
16. Trailblazer: Winning an Oscar is impressive, but Loren’s win in 1961 was an industry first. For her starring role in Two Women, Loren was awarded the Oscar for Best Lead Actress, making her the first winner from a non-English film.
17. Worth the Price: Multimillion-dollar movie advances are pretty common these days, though Loren’s $1 million dollar advance for 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire was one of the largest in Hollywood history at the time.
18. Fancy Fancy: Being compared to Marilyn Monroe isn’t the only title she carries. As a result of her father Riccardo Scicolone’s aristocratic heritage, the actress is also legally known as the Marquess of Licata Scicolone Murillo.
19. Moving On: Despite her strong – and obvious – associations with Italy, she no longer calls the country home. Loren lives full-time in Geneva, Switzerland, though she still maintains a residence in Rome.
20. Peas in a Pod: If you’re a fan of Sophia Loren’s movies, chances are you’re a fan of Marcello Mastroianni as well. The pair acted in a total of 12 films together, and Loren’s favorite director, Vittorio De Sica, directed three of them.
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21. The Italian Touch: Not only is Sophia Loren legendary on the big screen, but she’s also made a name for herself in the cooking world! The actress has penned three cookbooks, attributing her love of food to her grandmother’s Neapolitan cooking.
22. What the Heart Wants: Taking Loren’s fling with Cary Grant into account, it’s not hard to believe that Carlo Ponti was more than 20 years her senior. What is surprising, however, is that Ponti was only a few years younger than her mother!
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23. Not Again!: It never seemed like Loren could catch a break when it came to her valuables, as in addition to her jewelry she also had her Oscar stolen from her home in Italy, which the Academy made her pay out of pocket to replace.
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24. Natural Talent: For someone with an Oscar and nearly 100 productions to her credit, you’ll be surprised to know that Loren actually had no formal acting experience prior to making her film debut. Not too shabby for an amateur, huh?
25. #1 Son: Buying a birthday gift for a parent is no easy task, but in 2014, Loren’s son, Carlo Ponti Jr., put everyone else to shame by writing and conducting a symphony called “Sinfonietta per Sofia” for the actress’ 80th birthday.
26. Beauty and Brains: Sophia Loren was also known for her prowess at Scrabble. Of her defeat of her The Voyage co-star, Richard Burton, Loren once quipped: “Despite his immense knowledge and huge vocabulary, he succumbed to my supremacy.”
27. What Could’ve Been: Loren nearly had another iconic role to her credit when she was considered for the part of Lara Antipova in 1965’s Doctor Zhivago. In the end, however, the role went to Julie Christie.
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28. Two To Go: Earning EGOT status by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award is considered the pinnacle of industry achievement, and Loren is halfway there. In addition to her Oscar win, the actress also earned a Grammy in 2004 for Best Spoken Word Album for Profokiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus.
29. An “Exclusive” Club: When Loren received her Oscar in 1961, she joined a list of 13 other women that failed to accept their award in person. Other big names on this list include Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Crawford.
30. Still Got It: Sophia Loren has had her fair share of risqué photo shoots over the years, but even at 71, she was still gracing pinup magazines. Her 2007 shoot for Pirelli even saw the Italian icon pose alongside the likes of Naomi Watts and Penelope Cruz.
31. Rough Beginnings: During World War II, Loren was actually injured by a piece of shrapnel as a bombing run struck her hometown of Pozzuoli. Her family soon relocated to Naples to avoid the conflict.
32. Missed Opportunities: Most actresses don’t have the luxury of turning down roles, but Loren actually refused two parts in a pair of ’80s soaps. The roles of Alexis Carrington on Dynasty and Francesca Gioberti on Falcon Crest were originally Loren’s for the taking.
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33. Full Circle: Before the fame, Sophia Loren worked as a waitress at her family’s bar after they’d returned to war-torn Pozzuoli. Ironically enough, one of Loren’s later roles in L’oro di Napoli was that of a restaurant server in a pizzeria.
34. The First of Many: Prior to every actress in Hollywood having their own signature fragrance, Sophia Loren started the trend by introducing “Sophia” in 1981. She soon followed the perfume with a line of designer sunglasses.
35. Broken Promises: Sophia Loren is a huge soccer fan, and her love for the Napoli football club is so great that she actually offered to strip for them in 2007 if they got promoted to “Serie A.” Well, they did, though the actress was quick to backtrack her offer!
36. Closed Curtain: It’s usually not a surprise to see a famous film star make the transition from the studio to the stage, but it’s highly unlikely that Sophia Loren will ever appear in a Broadway production: the actress suffers from crippling stage fright!
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37. Extra Work: Despite speaking Italian fluently, Loren’s Hollywood films were dubbed for release in her home country. And what’s more, the actress didn’t even dub her own voice — Rita Savagnone and Lydia Simoneschi were used as Loren’s voice stand-ins.
38. An Early Connection: Many actresses have looked to Loren for inspiration, but the starlet’s relationship with Drew Barrymore goes beyond mere admiration. Loren actually looked after Barrymore from time to time, having been a close friend of her godmother, Anna Strasberg.
39. Radical Relative: Believe it or not, Sophia Loren is actually related to one of Italy’s most notorious and vilified dictators: Benito Mussolini. Loren’s sister, Maria Scicolone (right), wed Mussolini’s son, Romano (top), in 1962.
40. Living Large: Celebrities are known for their living spaces, and Sophia Loren boasts a beautiful abode in Manhattan’s Trump World Tower. This Upper East Side residence also has some equally impressive neighbors, including Harrison Ford and Derek Jeter.