Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980)

Not only does Sophia Loren portray herself in this biopic, she also plays the role of her mother, enabling the star to remain on screen for the majority of this film’s running time. The danger of such a conceit is that the biopic’s success relies almost exclusively on her performance. Unfortunately, she fluffs one of the characters, and it’s not the one you might expect.

 

Covering Loren’s life from the moment of her conception till the birth of her own child, the first portion of this film focuses on the struggles her mother endured raising two illegitimate daughters in war-torn Italy. Her own dreams of movie stardom unfulfilled, Sophia’s mother pours her energies into promoting her eldest daughter’s career. Soon Sophia wins a screen test, appears as an extra in a visiting Hollywood epic and scores a lead part in Vittorio De Sica’s The Gold of Naples.

 

It’s at this time that Sophia Loren assumes the role of Sophia Loren, and the film is the poorer for it. Whereas previously Loren’s portrayal of her mother was full of vitality, her performance as herself consists mainly of insipidly smiling at the men in her life. Herein lies another significant failing of this unique casting decision. The audience is asked to suspend disbelief and accept the 40-something Loren as her much younger self, throwing the depiction of her May-December romances with Carlo Ponti and Cary Grant off-kilter.

 

Sophia Loren portrayed her mother again 30 years later in My House Is Full of Mirrors. 

cast, sophia loren, John Gavin, Cary Grant, Ritza Brown
Ritza Brown
Ritza Brown

as Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren

as Sophia Loren

John Gavin
John Gavin

as Cary Grant

Edmund Purdom
Edmund Purdom

as Vittorio de Sica

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It would be expected that a biopic about Sophia Loren starring Sophia Loren and produced by Sophia Loren’s son would be accurate, but not everybody was happy with the result…

 

"I hate it. It's preposterous and quite wrong-at least the way Sophia portrays me. I was never a common woman, yet I am portrayed like an ignorant peasant. I was slim and classically beautiful and have the photographs to prove it. I was voted Garbo's lookalike in 1932, so how terrible could I have looked? Perhaps the writers didn't know any better, but Sophia did. I don't know how she could do this to her own mother."

Romilda Villani (Sophia Loren’s mother)

“I am offended and outraged. My daughter never went without shoes, I never walked around like a peasant and I certainly never wore my stocking rolled down below the knees”

Romilda Villani (Sophia Loren’s mother)

Rip Torn, Carlo Ponti, Edmund Purdom, Vittorio de Sica

Most of the scenes from Loren’s film career are reproduced, rather than recreated, in this biopic. Two exceptions are a scene from Woman of the Red Sea and the final scene from Houseboat.

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