OK, so Sophia Loren’s 73. So she’s getting up there. So she’s no longer the Italian sex symbol who captivated filmgoers in frisky roles starting decades ago. But hey, she’s still Sophia Loren — a classy lady and a fine actress who is still getting parts, the next one being for movie musical Nine, due next year.
Meanwhile, you can catch some of her early work in a new four-film Sophia Loren Collection from Lions Gate, due June 10, featuring Neapolitan Carousel, Attila, Madame Sans-Gene and Sunflower.
Then you can look forward to Nine, directed by Chicago’s Rob Marshall. It will be Loren’s first film in five years and one of the few she’s done in the past decade-plus.
Happily, I shared some screen time with her in one of those few, 1994’s Pret-a-Porter (aka Ready to Wear) from director Robert Altman. For his fashion-focused comedy laced with a flimsy murder mystery and goosed by an all-star cast, Loren and longtime co-star Marcello Mastroianni played former lovers from Rome who, after many years, reconnect against the backdrop of Parisian fashion shows.
One such show involved fictional designer Cort Romney, played with foppish humor by Richard Grant and using designs actually created by the real deal, Vivienne Westwood. To shoot the Cort Romney show’s runway scenes for the film, cast and crew assembled at a chateau in the countryside not far from Paris, where the big-scale production worked for two days.
I was there for both days. I’d planned a vacation in Europe to coincide with the shoot, and Altman and company set it up in an ideal give-and-take way. For two days, the press — mostly Europeans — could cover the shoot, while also being in it. We’d play the fashion journalists attending Romney’s show.
So for two days, while models strutted and stars preened in closeups, I sat in the second row of the audience just behind a legend at any age — Sophia Loren — who wore a large hat which largely obscured me. Oh, you can catch glimpses of me here and there, along with better looks at the person next to me, my wife, who was, in fact, a fashion journalist, and had the sense to steer us to the best seats when the shoot began.
I never spoke to Ms. Loren — she seemed so regal, and I hated to bother her. But I did meet many other actors on the shoot, from Grant, Stephen Rea and Tracey Ullman to Sally Kellerman, Harry Belafonte, Lyle Lovett and Danny Aiello. What an experience. Spent one off-hour on a picnic blanket behind the chateau with Kellerman, Rea, Everett and Linda Hunt, while Everett sang Broadway show songs and we all had a laugh. Filmmaking is slow and tedious work, but the camaraderie among those on a shoot can be a wonderful thing. And with Ms. Loren, just admiring her from afar — or close up — was enough for me.