But She Never Really Left
“If you haven’t heard of Sophia Loren, you are from another planet, or you’re very young and still have lots to learn.” That’s according to industry idol Isabella Rossellini, who recently joined Loren and her son Edoardo Ponti in a conversation about the pair’s new film, La vita davanti a sé (The Life Ahead).Across a lifetime of legendary work, Loren has won two Oscars, five Golden Globes, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and honors from the Venice, Cannes, and Berlin film festivals. She has worked with Italian masters Vittorio De Sica and Ettore Scola; with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Sidney Lumet, and Robert Altman; with Marcello Mastroianni, Marlon Brando, and Cary Grant.Now, back in a feature performance for the first time in a decade, she once again arrives to the Oscars conversation — this time in a project directed by her son. Adapted from a novel by Romain Gary, La vita davanti a sé follows the unexpected bond that forms between Madame Rosa (Loren), a neighborhood caretaker and Holocaust survivor, and Momo (newcomer Ibrahima Gueye), the 12-year-old Senegalese Italian orphan whom she reluctantly takes in.It’s the third collaboration between Loren and Ponti (following 2002’s Between Strangers and the 2014 short film Voce umana), and it’s unlikely to be the last. “I don’t think I’m going to stop,” Loren vows. “I will be forever. Forever.”
Sophia Loren in Armani
Herself the daughter of a Golden Age star and a pioneering neorealist director, Rossellini introduced Loren and Ponti in a conversation hosted by the American Film Institute: “My dream would have been to work with my mother, Ingrid Bergman, and my father, Roberto Rossellini. I am incredibly envious of Edoardo’s generosity, the way he is attentive, and the way he has learned from his mother. Here is my talk with them.”
I adore working with my son. I want to work with my son always, always.”
Isabella Rossellini: As I grew up, Italian women were not seen as role models. Sophia, you showed us that the Italian woman was a woman with great pride, who held the family together.
Sophia Loren: I always tried to be like my own mother. She was really wonderful. She was strong. She was an incredible woman. That’s what my aim in life was: to be like my mother. She was a big idol for me.
Were you often on the set with your father and your mother? I loved being on the set when I was a little girl.
EP: My family actually made an effort to protect us from the set. They were very much into the desire to create a family home and an environment that was as grounded as possible. If we had the opportunity to go on set because a movie coincided with the summer, then we were on set. If not, we had to go to school, do our homework. But when I did go on set, it was magical. What I loved was driving up to the set. Very far away, you saw these lights. It looked like you were about to enter this magical dimension, a little bit like Oz when you’re walking down the yellow brick road.
I made my first attempt at screenwriting when I was 15, and I gave the script to my mother.”
How do you establish a relationship between an actor who knows how to enter a character and somebody like Ibrahima?
SL: I had to take care of Ibrahima in the film. It’s not that he was lost — no, no, no. He’s a strong guy. But it was his first opportunity to be in a picture, to see a camera, to see people who are just looking at him. So it was very hard, but I think he liked very much the emotion around the camera, the emotion with the people, being filmed.
Sophia, you are an icon, but every time I meet you, I immediately see the human being. Do you find that when you meet people you have to wait for that moment when they find the human being?
SL: You have to try to behave yourself. I am a very shy person. I’m accustomed to making films, I’m accustomed to being at home, and that’s all. But once in a while, sometimes, I feel a little not easy — not easy with people, not easy with myself, you know? And I have to overcome that because I don’t like it.
Watch The Life Ahead
on Netflix Now.