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Sophia Loren Spills the Beans on Co-Stars, Her Career and Fellini at AFI Fest

Sophia Loren tribute AFI Fest
Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Sophia Loren had the AFI Fest audience laughing, applauding and cheering as Rob Marshall led her through her decades-long career during a retrospective at the Dolby Theatre on Wednesday.

Marshall called Loren “a woman with a heart as big as all Italy.”

Explaining her start in films, Loren said as a kid she loved going to the movies to escape the misery of her life. “When I saw the movies, I forgot the war, forgot hunger. It was possible to believe there was another life than the one I was in.” Years later, she would dig into those memories when she acted in films including “Two Women.”

While she worked with many of the famous Italian directors of her time, she never teamed with Fellini. “I was not his kind of actress.”

She learned English when her husband, Carlo Ponti, called her from Hollywood to tell her “you have to learn English, because movies are in English.”

Discussing her various co-stars she said Cary Grant was a “special person, a great actor, absolutely incredible as a person, as a man.” Peter Sellers was “very melancholic person. He would light up only when the director said action.” Clark Gable “did his job, I liked him a lot. But he had a watch and it rang every evening at 5. When it rang, he would leave without saying goodbye.”

When asked about Marlon Brando, she said, “Eh” with an expressive shrug of the shoulders that had the aud bursting into laughter. Laughing herself, she admitted that initially the two didn’t get along. She recalled an incident when Charlie Chaplin and she were kept waiting by Brando on the set of “A Countess in Hong Kong.” She said Chaplin took Brando to task for the delay. “Marlon Brando didn’t have a very good voice, very small,” she said, and after being berated by Chaplin, “it went away.” Loren herself was famous for being on set early, Marshall said, but the actress said since it irritated people she’s modulated her arrival.

Clearly one of her faves was Marcello Mastrioanni. “Marcello was great, he was a funny actor, dramatic actor. Twenty years we did films together. He was a simple man. He loved to eat. All morning he talked about lunch and then the rest of the day about dinner.”

The tribute was interspersed with clips ranging from “Two Women” to “Nine” as well as a photo of Loren famously staring at Jayne Mansfield spilling out of her frock,  a short “Human Voice” helmed by her son Edoardo Ponti, and ended with a screening of “Marriage Italian Style.”

Among the stars in attendance were Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello, Michelle Monaghan, her sons Carlo Ponti Jr. and Edoardo Ponti and Sasha Alexander.