Academy to honour barrier-breaking Sophia Loren

Updated: May 03, 2011, 09:59 AM IST

Beverly Hills: It`s a rare moment when Sophia Loren doesn`t stand out, but this is one of them.

The Italian actress is posing for photos on the stage at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where she will be honoured Wednesday for her half-dozen decades in cinema. She is head-to-toe in red, from the highlights in her hair to her boots to her Armani suit. She seems to melt into the red-curtain backdrop on the stage.

But not completely. No amount of red can hide the smile, the voice, the incredible beauty.

"I love red, because I think it is very nice," she explains. "It says, `Naples.` It`s the vibrant life of Neapolitan people. It`s the creative side of the Neapolitan people. It`s life."

Loren`s personal and professional lives began in Rome, though, where she was born in 1934. She got her start in movies as an extra in the 1951 MGM epic ‘Quo Vadis.’ Her breakthrough came in the Italian feature ‘The Gold of Naples’ (1954). Hollywood eventually took notice, but she didn`t truly triumph until returning to Italy and her ‘Naples’ director Vittorio De Sica.

In his ‘Two Women’ (1961), she played a mother who is raped while protecting her daughter in wartime. The performance earned her the first major Oscar for a non-English-language performance.

The Academy honoured her again in 1991, with an award for her contributions to world cinema. Nevertheless, this week`s Academy tribute is clearly significant to Loren.

"It means a lot to an actress who has been working ... such a long time in this field," she says. "Even though I have an Oscar ... when they called me from this building to invite me to another big honour, it is really very moving."

Of her work, Loren says she is perhaps most fond of ‘Two Women’ and ‘A Special Day’ (1977), the latter with frequent co-star Marcello Mastroianni.

"These are the two films that really made a big impact in my career," she says. "Anna Magnani made it very big in America, but for an American film. I succeeded in having a great success for an Italian movie, in speaking in Italian, not in American, not in English. So it was really a big, big thing for the industry."

While there were periods where she slowed down a bit to raise her two children with husband Carlo Ponti, she really never stopped working. Her last major Hollywood feature was the musical ‘Nine’ in 2009.

"The future is always something that is the unknown," says Loren, 76. "Who knows? But, of course, you have dreams inside of yourself ... and maybe sometimes you work for that one that you really want to make it in life. And if you think positively about it, maybe one day it will happen. I am a dreamer."

Bureau Report