Don’t call it a comeback—Sophia Loren has been here for years, and her new Netflix film, The Life Ahead, proves she very much still has it. Directed by her own son, Edoardo Ponti (who also co-wrote the script with Ugo Chiti), The Life Ahead is an Italian drama based on the French novel by Romain Gary, The Life Before Us, originally published in 1975. The book has previously been adapted for the screen in Moshé Mizrahi 1977 French drama, Madame Rosa, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and earned star Simone Signoret the César Award for Best Actress.
But now it’s Loren’s turn to step into the shoes of Madame Rosa, who, as the story goes, is an elderly Holocaust survivor and former sex worker, who runs an unofficial baby sitter service for the children of other sex workers. Still, she’s not looking for any more children to care for when her doctor comes to her with a 10-year-old Senegalese immigrant named Momo—the very same one who stole from her, no less. But after Madame Rose reluctantly agrees to take the boy in, the two of them bond in ways neither would have thought possible.
While classic Hollywood fans surely know the name Sophia Loren, the legend may be reaching a whole new audience of the streaming generation with The Life Ahead. Here’s what you should know about Loren before you hit play.
What Sophia Loren movies are the best?
While it’s hard to say which Sophia Loren film is “best,” among film fans, Loren is perhaps best known for the 1960 Italian war drama Two Women. for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and became the very first actor or actress to win for a foreign language film. She was nominated again, three years later, for Marriage Italian Style. She also appeared in plenty of American films in the ’50s and ’60s, like Desire Under the Elms with Anthony Perkins; The Pride and the Passion and Houseboat with Cary Grant; Arabesque with Gregory Peck; and many more.
Audiences loved watching Loren on screen for her distinctive look—high cheekbones, prominent brow, large warm hazel eyes—and she was widely known as a sex symbol. “Miss Loren is a monument to her sex, and the mere opportunity to observe her is a privilege not to be dismissed,” wrote New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther in 1957, while reviewing her comedy, The Miller’s Beautiful Wife.
Photo: Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
But more than her incredible film roles, Loren became known as one of Old Hollywood’s most glamorous and sexy stars. She came from modest beginnings (born as Sofia Villani Scicolone, before she took on a stage name), and by 22 had a five-picture contract with Paramount. It was just the kind of success story film fans loved to hear at the time. Loren famously had an affair with Cary Grant in the ’50s, though soon after married Italian film producer Carlo Ponti, with whom she stayed until his death in 2007. She was an object of fascination when it came to celebrity gossip. The whole world watched as she suffered through bigamy charges, miscarriages, lawsuits, and even an 18-day prison sentence on tax evasion charges in 1982.
Sex, glamour, Oscars, gossip—Loren was a quintessential Classic Hollywood star. She was listed at 21 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list of greatest female stars, and is the only surviving member on that list. In 1991, she received the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievements. If all of the above aren’t reasons enough to treat Loren with the utmost respect, you should also know that she practically invented the side-eye, with this look she directed at former Playboy Playmate Jayne Mansfield in 1957, while attending a party in Beverly Hills.
Years later, Loren told Entertainment Weekly the reason for the look was because she was afraid Mansfield was about to accidentally expose herself. “Listen,” Loren said. “Look at the picture. Where are my eyes? I’m staring at her nipples because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate. In my face, you can see the fear. I’m so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow—BOOM!—and spill all over the table.”
Where is Sophia Loren now?
Loren, now 86, has continued to act even in her later years, and she has remained beloved by her fans. Maybe it’s because she’s the kind of Hollywood legend who talks about starring at Jayne Mansfield’s nipples on the record, or maybe it’s because she’s just that good of an actress.
In addition to The Life Ahead, she collaborated with her son Edoardo Ponti in 2013 on a film adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play The Human Voice, and before that, she starred in Rob Marshall’s 2009 film version of the Broadway musical Nine. She never fails to give it her all, and nowhere is that more true than The Life Ahead, which releases on Netflix tomorrow. Loren’s expressive eyes shimmer with emotion as Madame Rosa, as she desperately tries to stay in the present rather than get lost in her traumatic past. It’s no wonder that the performance has stirred up Oscar buzz. If nominated, Loren, who is 86, would become the oldest nominee for Best Actress, ever, beating out Emmanuelle Riva, who was nominated for Amour at age 85.
Awards or not, if her performance in The Life Ahead is anything to go by, Loren is just as talented an actor as she was in 1956. For legends like Loren, age is but a number.
Originally published at https://decider.com/2020/11/12/who-is-sophia-loren-the-life-ahead/ on .