Sophia was born in Rome in 1934 in a charity ward for unwed mothers. Her father, Riccardo Scicolone, refused to marry her mother Romilda, leaving her with no support and refusing to allow Sophia’s sister to take his last name. The family grew up in poverty and their harbour town was frequently bombed by the Allies during World War II.
When she was 14, Sophia’s mother entered her into a beauty contest and she wore a dress that her grandmother had sewn from pink curtains. Selected as one of the winners and given a ticket to Rome, she began her acting career at 16. She spent her first movie earning to buy her father’s name for her illegitimate sister.
Sophia Loren became an international film star following her five-picture contract with Paramount Pictures in 1958. For her first English-speaking role in The Pride and the Passion, in which she co-starred with Carey Grant and Frank Sinatra, she learned her lines by reading cue cards that had the English words spelled out phonetically.
Her Oscar win for Best Actress in Two Women (1962) was the first time an Academy Award in that category was given to an actress in a foreign-language film.
After starting a family in the early 1970s (she has two sons), Sophia chose to make only occasional film appearances. She has also won a Grammy Award, five special Golden Globes, a BAFTA Award, a Laurel Award, the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Honorary Academy Award in 1991. In 1995, Sophia received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievements, one of many such awards.
A skilled chef, Loren wrote three cookbooks including recipes to her favourite Italian dishes.