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NINE

SOPHIA LOREN graduated from the school of hard knocks to become a legendary screen star, one of the most famous women of her generation. She has worked alongside all the movie greats—from Clark Gable and Cary Grant, to Gregory Peck and Richard Burton, from Peter O'Toole to Charlton Heston, from Paul Newman to Marcello Mastroianni, from Peter Ustinov to Peter Sellers.

Sophia Loren was born in Rome in 1934, and raised in war-ravaged Naples. Her mother, a single parent, struggled to support Sophia and her sister Maria. At 14, Sophia was a runner up in a beauty contest, and enrolled in acting class.

As a result, she was cast as an extra in Mervyn LeRoy's QUO VADIS which led to other small roles, and soon after she entered another beauty contest. One of the judges was Carlo Ponti, and he became the most important man in Sophia's life: her producer, her husband and the father of her two sons. "Carlo knew me better than I knew myself,” she has said.

By the late 1950s, Sophia's star was rising in the west—films like BOY ON A DOLPHIN and THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION helped secure a five-picture contract with Paramount Pictures and projects like DEISRE UNDER THE ELMS with Anthony Perkins, HOUSEBOAT with Cary Grant and George Cukor's HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS where she first when blonde.

In 1960, Loren starred in Vittorio De Sica's TWO WOMEN winning the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals top acting award. She also won an Academy Award® for Best Actress, the first time this accolade had been given for a performance in a foreign language film. De Sica's strong, gritty story told of a mother and daughter surviving in war torn Italy.

Loren was in huge demand, often for epic subjects—EL CID with Charlton Heston, THE MILLIONAIRESS with Peter Sellers, IT STARTED IN NAPLES with Clark Gable, Peter Ustinov's LADY L with Paul Newman, ARABESQUE with Gregory Peck, and Charlie Chaplin's last film, A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG with Marlon Brando.

In 1980, Sophia played herself and her own mother in the made-for-television version of her autobiography. Through the 1990s Loren chose her films and her business enterprises with care—appearing in well received movies like Robert Altman's PRET A PORTER, and the 1995 comedy GRUMPIER OLD MEN as a femme fatale opposite Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

In 1991, Loren was awarded an Honorary Academy Award® recognizing her contribution to world cinema. In 1995, she received the Golden Globe's Cecil B. DeMille Award. In 1993, she presented Federico Fellini with an Honorary Academy Award®. In 1998, she presented the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film for Roberto Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

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