Sophia Loren is the most renowned actress in Italy.
She was born as Sofia Villani Scicolone on September 20th 1934 in a ward for unmarried mothers in a hospital in Rome, Lazio, Italy.
Her Mother, Romilda Villani was a piano teacher and would-be actress. Her Father, Riccardo Scicolone refused to marry Romilda consequently leaving her without any financial support.
Four years later they had a second daughter together, Anna Maria Villani Scicolone, but Riccardo Scicolone still refused to take responsibility for his family. Out of desperation Romilda Villani was forced to take both girls to Pozzuoli near Naples where all three of them lived in near poverty with her mother.
Pozzuoli was not a safe place to be during World War II due to the harbour and a munitions plant, both of which were constant bombing targets. During one raid Sofia was hit by shrapnel as she ran to the shelter and received an injury to her chin which left a lasting scar. Immediately after the war times were so hard that Sofia's grandmother made cherry liquor in her kitchen and opened a bar in her living room. Romilda played the piano and Anna Maria sang while Sofia acted as waitress and did the washing up. This impromptu bar was very popular with the American GIs who were stationed nearby and provided a much needed income for the family.
Sophia Loren in 'The Gold of Naples' in 1954
Life began to change for the better for Sofia when she was fourteen and began to develop quite rapidly from a skinny, plain child into the voluptuous, beautiful woman she eventually became. She entered a local beauty contest in Naples and although she didn't win she was a runner up. Immediately after this success she enrolled in acting classes and soon began securing parts in films as an extra. The roles increased and in 1952 she changed her name to Sophia Loren shortly before her first starring role in Aida in 1953, for which she received critical acclaim. She quickly rose to fame in Italy and shortly afterwards began making films in English and was well on the road to becoming a worldwide star.
Sophia Loren eating spaghetti in 1955
She worked hard, was in popular demand and during her career she has built up an impressive catalogue of roles, a full list of which is set out below.
Sophia Loren met her husband, Carlo Ponti, in 1950 when she was just sixteen and he was 22 years older and married. He was subsequently divorced and they married in 1957 but Italian law did not recognise the divorce and they had their marriage annulled in 1962 in order for him to escape charges of bigamy.
Sophia Loren in 'Houseboat' in 1958
Carlo Ponti finally managed to obtain an official divorce in France which left him free to marry Sophia for a second time in 1966. They became french citizens and had two sons, Carlo Ponti Jr on 29th December 1968 and Edoardo Ponti on 6th January 1973. She took time out from acting to raise her children and the family kept a low profile enabling them to live a near normal life.
The couple remained married until Carlo Ponti died in 2007 and Sophia Loren has never remarried. She has stated that it would be impossible for her to love anyone else.
Sophia Loren in 2009
Today Sophia Loren is still active and working, has four grandchildren and lives mainly in Geneva but also has houses in Naples and Rome.