Sophia Loren: Cameramen complained my nose and mouth were too big

The acclaimed Italian actress appeared on Desert Island Discs.

Sophia Loren christens cruise ship MSC Poesia – Dover
Sophia Loren christens cruise ship MSC Poesia – Dover

Sophia Loren has said cameramen early in her career did not know how to shoot her and complained her nose and mouth were too big.

The Oscar-winning Italian actress said her first experiences in Rome’s film industry were like a “war”, but helped develop her confidence in her own beauty.

The 86-year-old – who has starred opposite Hollywood greats including Marlon Brando, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra – recalled breaking into the acting world during an appearance on Desert Island Discs.

Mercury Music Prize 2015 – London
Lauren Laverne (Ian West/PA)

Speaking from her home in Switzerland, Loren told host Lauren Laverne: “I didn’t have the most normal face to be able to look good in any kind of lighting because my nose was too big, my mouth was too big, everything was too big for them.

“So really they didn’t want me because maybe the cameramen had another girl that he wanted to put in my place. It was terrible. It was a war.

“But I understood that. I said, ‘It is okay, it is okay’. I don’t have a big face where you change it with this and then you put it with something else. No, I had a little face and I liked my faced.

“I liked the way I was. I liked to look at myself in the mirror when I was growing. I owned my face and I wanted to keep it.”

During her appearance on the BBC Radio 4 show, Loren explained why she had turned down a marriage proposal from Grant, who she starred opposite in The Pride And The Passion in 1957.

Sophia Loren – 1955
Sophia Loren in 1955 (PA)

The actress was engaged to Italian film producer Carlo Ponti at the time, but also said she wanted to avoid becoming involved with men on set.

She said: “Why? Because I was already engaged with Carlo. And also, when these kind of things happen often on a set, I think that I have always been very careful about it because a set is something, the world is something else.

“You don’t want to wake up and say, ‘I made really something that I shouldn’t have done. It is terrible’. No no, I never went into that.”

Her performance as Cesira in 1960’s Two Women, directed by Vittorio De Sica, earned her the Oscar for best actress and made her the first actor or actress to win an Oscar for a foreign-language performance.

But Loren said she did not attend the US ceremony because she thought it was impossible she would win.

Sophia Loren – London Airport – 1966
Sophia Loren and late husband Carlo Ponti (PA)

Explaining her decision to stay in Italy, she said: “Because the Oscar for us in Italy is far away. For an Italian film you do not feel it was possible that yes, you are going to win.

“I was with friends because we were doing a little party just to be together, pretending that we were not thinking that there was in Hollywood the Oscars.

“Then De Sica was there with me and the phone rang and said ‘You won.’

“I almost fainted. Wonderful moment. Really this kind of prize you cannot say how you feel. It is impossible because it is unique, it is wonderful, it is great.”

Among her musical choices was Lara Says Goodbye To Yuri from the film Doctor Zhivago, which was produced by her husband, who died in 2007.

“This was the film that my husband Carlo was most the most proud of,” she said.

“He fought for this music to be in the film. He had great instinct and was a great artist. I miss him every day of my life.”

She also chose a recording of The Marketplace at Limoges by Modest Mussorgsky conducted by her son Carlo Ponti Jr.

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Sounds as well as on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am.

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