In a career that spans 70 years, Sophia's Loren performance in "The Life Ahead" is a standout. Debuting this week on Netflix, it is Loren's first film in a decade, and watching her on screen is like catching up with someone you haven't seen in a while. We are all just a bit older.
"It was time for me to start again at my age," Loren told correspondent Seth Doane, "which I'm not going to tell you – and maybe you know it already. But it's fun. It's fun. It's wonderful."
Since it's public knowledge, we'll divulge: Ms. Loren is now 86. "Everybody ages – I mean, me, too! I'm not a saint! Me, too. What can I do? Should I be afraid? Why? It's wonderful. And I look wonderful for my age anyway, don't you think?"
"Oh, absolutely agree!" Doane replied.
Throughout her career she's played decidedly un-glamourous roles. Her latest, Madame Rosa, is a former prostitute who cares for the kids of other sex workers.
She lives on the margins of Italian society, much like Loren did growing up in poverty with an unmarried, single mom in a suburb of Naples.
"That's why I made the film – she reminded me a lot about my mother," Loren said. "My mother was absolutely like that. Inside she was very fragile, but she looked strong."
The family connections do not stop there. The film's director is Edoardo Ponti, her son.
So, who is the boss on set? "He pretends not to be, but he is the boss," said Loren.
Edoardo is the younger of two sons Loren had with her late husband Carlo Ponti, the movie producer who first discovered her as a teenager (then named Sofia Villani SciColone) in a Rome beauty pageant. This is the third time mother and son have teamed up.
Doane asked Ponti, "Did you always have your mom in mind for this role?"
Loren interjected, "I wish he did!"
Ponti said, "I don't think that anybody could've inhabited the role of the character of Madame Rosa in the way she did."
"That's quite a resource to have in the family," said Doane.
"If my mother happens to be such an amazing actress and I happen to be a director, I would be an idiot if it did not cast my mother in my movies," Ponti said.
The story chronicles the unlikely friendship between a Holocaust survivor and a 12-year-old Muslim immigrant from Senegal, Momo, played by Ibrahima Gueye. It is his first acting role. Loren said, "He was really like somebody that has always been in this business. I think he was born for it. I think so."
No small compliment from Loren, who's played opposite some of Hollywood's biggest stars: Clark Gable, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant.
Doane asked Ponti, "Did you second-guess at all putting this completely untested actor next to your mom in these leading roles?"
"Thank God I didn't!" he replied. "To make sure that he felt comfortable with my mother, we all actually, during the shooting, lived together under the same roof, so he could see her the way that I see her."
Doane said, "So, Ibrahima would get up in the morning, and Sophia Loren would be in the kitchen saying, before we shoot, 'I'll make you breakfast'?"
"Correct, correct," Ponti said. "Because that was the only way to create the right bond for them to know each other."
It was a way for the young actor to see Loren as an Italian mom, not a movie star. "Sunday Morning" glimpsed that, too. Had coronavirus precautions not kept our interview virtual, Loren, at home in Switzerland, said she would have welcomed us and cooked pasta. "Next time, we do it!" she said.
Loren was the first to win a Best Actress Oscar in a foreign language film, 1961's "Two Women." For decades she's dazzled audiences with her talent, but much has been made of her beauty.
Doane asked, "For someone who has been such an icon of beauty, how has your definition of beauty changed? Or, has it?"
"It's not important, the appearance," Loren said. "It's important maybe in films. But it's what you have to give inside of yourself, your soul, your everything. The way you believe in things, the way are with your family. The way you are with your friends. That's life, really. That's a good life."
Loren had taken a nearly decade-long break from acting to dedicate time to her family, until the right part, with the right director, came along.
Doane asked, "How is it to work with your son?"
"No, not good. Not good. Not good at all. Very bad, very bad!" she said. "Because he knows me so well, he always knows how to push the right button for me to be able to react and do whatever he thinks I should be done."
Ponti said, "My mother approaches every movie like it was her first. And part of her process is, 'Oh, my God, I can't.' And part of my process is, 'No, no, no. Of course you can.'"
"Are you being serious? She really doubts herself?" asked Doane.
"Every day. Every take. Every moment. And it's beautiful, because she still approaches it with the same anxiety, the same spontaneity, the same passion as if was her first film."
Doane asked Loren if she agreed with her son. "Yes, yes, yes, I know myself he's right, he knows me."
Their film is already generating Oscar buzz, and they're passionate about its messages of tolerance and the value of nontraditional families. "If this film can give an audience the desire to love others and live their lives to the fullest, then anything is possible," said Loren.
"It must be quite something to be able to come together and make a creative product together with someone you love, and then you put it out there for the world to see?" said Doane
"Certainly. Absolutely," Loren replied.
Ponti added, "It's good for my soul."
How? "Because it aligns everything that I love: My work, my mother, telling stories. It aligns everything."
Loren kissed him: "Bello. Bello. I have a good son!"
"And I have a good mother!" Ponti said.
"I'll say. That's for sure!" she laughed
To watch a trailer for "The Life Ahead" click on the video player below.
For more info:
- "The Life Ahead" debuts on Netflix on November 13
Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Brian Robbins.