Sophia Loren turned 80 on Saturday — a landmark birthday feted across Italy with celebrations of the beauty and talent of the country’s revered cinema icon.
Loren herself was spending the day in Mexico City, where telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim had organised a gala dinner to mark the occasion.
Slim, one of the world’s richest men, was also hosting an exhibition at his private museum entitled “Yesterday, today and tomorrow”.
That is also the title of a new memoir Loren has produced to mark her octogenarian birthday and which is full of anecdotes detailing, for example, how enamoured Cary Grant was of her, and how she once resisted Marlon Brando’s amorous advances by hissing at him like an angry cat.
The illegitimate daughter of an actress, Loren is adored in her homeland for that kind of feistiness — as well as for her triumph over extremely humble origins, her acting talent and for the voluptuous good looks that made her synonomous with simmering southern sensuality.
Born Sofia Scicolone to an actress single mother, Loren was nicknamed the “toothpick” because she was so thin in her early teens. But she soon filled out sufficiently to be able to earn a living for herself and her impoverished family by winning beauty contests.
At one of them, aged 15, she met Carlo Ponti, a man two decades older than her who was to become her husband, manager and constant companion until his death in 2007.
Along the way, Loren had two children and picked up an Oscar for best actress for her role in Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women”.
Among the events being held to mark her 80th was an exhibition of photographs of her in Milan entitled “Sophia Loren – style icon” which was overlapping with the spring/summer 2015 womenswear shows in the city.
“She is a legend,” said Anna Torrente, one of the thousands of visitors to the exhibition this week. “I want to wish her many happy returns. She was lucky in her life but she also made her own way.”
Eli Laslean, from Romania, said she considered Loren to be the “most beautiful woman in the world”.
“For me she was my dream, my princess,” she told AFP.
Carlo Mosca, a member of Loren’s generation, recalled the impact she had made on him as a young boy. “She was always our dream, for us boys she was our Eros. With that, I have said everything!”