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Cannes Film Festival (1955)
Sophia Loren had her breakout moment at 20 years old when she went to Cannes to support Vittorio De Sica's The Gold of Naples, one of her earliest starring roles, and quickly realized she was the most photographed person at the festival that year: ''The public, they were applauding me in the street like they were supposed to do with actresses that have a very important name. And for that moment I felt that maybe, maybe, maybe I might have a chance to make it in films.''
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Jayne Mansfield (1957)
They didn't know each other at all, but Loren and bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield will always be cosmically bonded by this legendary photo. ''Listen,'' Loren says. ''Look at the picture. Where are my eyes? I'm staring at her nipples because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate. In my face you can see the fear. I'm so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow—BOOM!—and spill all over the table.''
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Cary Grant and Loren had begun a romance while filming 1957's The Pride and the Passion. Though she declined his proposal for marriage, he continued to woo her during the making of this comedy. ''This photo is beautiful because it reminds me of Cary. He was one of the most special people in my life. He was the one who called to tell me I won my Oscar. He was funny, he was vulnerable, and we stayed friends, talking on the phone all the time until the day he died.''
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Elvis Presley (1958)
''I didn't know Elvis at all, but we were both making films at Paramount and eating in the cafeteria and we both thought, 'Oh, I want to meet you.' And so I sat in his lap and we laughed like two kids. I played with his hair and joked about all the women who were screaming for him. We were really just like two little kids.''
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Carlo Ponti (1961)
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who shot Loren for seven LIFE magazine covers, snapped this photo of the actress playfully berating her film producer husband. She met Ponti when she was 15, and they were married from 1957 until his death in 2007: ''He was my husband, my father, my man, my home. For him the cinema was like life—just a big adventure.''
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El Cid (1961)
Charlton Heston said that Loren never complained about the frigid weather and skimpy wardrobe she endured while making this costume epic. ''Of course I didn't,'' she says with a laugh, ''because, don't you know, I like to suffer.'' Heston remained a lifelong friend. ''No enemies, that's my philosophy. For understanding people, it's easier that way.''
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Two Women (1961)
Loren was just 25 when she portrayed a shopkeeper enduring the horrors of World War II with her adolescent daughter in Vittorio De Sica's landmark drama. ''This scene here, where I scream and throw rocks at the troops in the Jeep—each time I see it, I can't talk anymore,'' Loren says. ''All the emotions in that scene, and, my God, it was made in just a few seconds. It's the most important single instant in my career.''
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Oscar Glow (1962)
''I look very happy next to my Oscar, no?'' says Loren. ''And with the cigarette in my hand, of course, even though I don't smoke. I never smoked. It was just to have the attitude, just so that the press would believe I was a grown-up.'' Producer Joe Levine picked up Loren's Oscar in Los Angeles and arrived with it in Rome the following day. ''What a marvelous man he was—and what a jet-lagged man he was.''
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At Home, With Oscar (1962)
She celebrated her Best Actress win for Two Women with her mother, Romilda (center), and sister, Maria (right). ''We're in Rome, just talking in bed together, in the house I bought with the first money I received.'' Loren skipped the ceremony that year. ''I never, ever thought I had a chance to even be in the top five. There had never been an actress in a foreign-language film to win an Oscar. It was too impossible to believe.''
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''We did 14 films together,'' says Loren of Mastroianni, her most beloved and popular costar, who died in 1996. ''We were in comedies like Too Bad She's Bad and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (top), then later the people accepted us in dramas like Marriage, Italian Style and A Special Day. But we came back to comedy for our last film together [Robert Altman's 1994 Ready to Wear, bottom]. Bob Altman said to us, 'What do you want to do?' and it was all Marcello's idea to redo the striptease from Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, all done with the same music, the same howling like a dog by Marcello. But this time he's snoring by the end of it. [Laughs] Oh, beautiful, beautiful Marcello.''
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In 1963, Loren handed Gregory Peck his Academy Award for To Kill a Mockingbird. (He returned the favor in 1991, presenting her with an honorary Oscar.) But on the set of this thriller, the patrician gentleman didn't immediately warm to his bighearted Italian costar. ''Mamma mia, he was handsome! But he was somebody who wanted to know me before giving his friendship. So it took him time to open up.'' She pauses. ''Maybe one week, not more.''
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Mamma Sophia (1969)
After a difficult pregnancy, which included estrogen shots and bed rest, Loren gave birth in Geneva to her first son, Carlo, in December 1968 (a second son, Eduardo, came along in 1973). ''We didn't want to give the exclusive photo rights to one person, and my doctor said, 'Better to take photos in a place where everybody's there at once and then you can go back to your room.' We had a press conference in the amphitheater of the hospital, and there were hundreds of photographers there. It was such a wonderful moment for me, one of the best moments of my life. So, absolutely, why not have hundreds of photographers?''
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Her Own Story (1980)
In this dramatized television film about her life, Loren played her own mother, who gave birth to Sophia in a home for unwed mothers after becoming pregnant by a man who claimed to be a film producer. ''My mother suffered so much in her life by meeting the wrong person, like my father. I've tried to show that suffering in many of my performances.'' Romilda Villani, Loren's mother (who died in 1991), refused to see the movie. ''But I think she would have loved it. Because it would have shown her souvenirs of her life that had maybe been blinded by the time that goes by. Oh, she would have been moved by it.''
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Grumpier Old Men (1995)
In the sequel to the popular Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau comedy, Loren played Matthau's saucy love interest. ''Oh Walter, that beautiful man,'' she sighs. ''Watching Walter and Jack together was beautiful too. Never a moment of nervousness, never a moment of 'Oh my God, we're actors!' Just watching them have fun, it was like my own private cinema.''
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''I was very emotional when I did this scene,'' says Loren, who made a cameo in this musical as the mother of movie director Guido (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). ''And it was because I was sharing the screen with the best actor in the world. And also the most charming, serious, perfect, handsome, and everything else. I've respected him for so long. Ever since [in My Left Foot when] he was able to draw with his foot. Madonn'! So beautiful. And [There Will Be Blood] about the petrol coming out of the ground. Oh my God! And President Lincoln. What a performer! Every time he appears in a film, I'm at the cinema. So to be in the same film next to him, I was very touched by it.''