×

Sophia Loren Returning to the Screen in ‘The Life Ahead’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Oscar-winning actress Sophia Loren is back in front of the camera for her first feature film in a decade, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti in a movie in which she plays Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor who forges a bond with a 12-year-old Senegalese immigrant boy named Momo.

The film, titled “La vita davanti a sé” (“The Life Ahead”), is an adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel “La vie devant soi,” which was previously adapted for the big screen by Israeli filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi as “Madame Rosa,” starring Simone Signoret. That film won the 1978 foreign-language Oscar.

Loren, 84, plays the same role as Signoret, though Ponti said the two adaptations are very different. The film has begun shooting in Italy. Loren, who is working 10-hour days, said she is allowing herself to “express things on screen in a way that I think audiences will find very surprising.”

She added that her son wouldn’t settle for anything but her best. “He knows me so well. He knows every inch of my face, my heart, my soul. He will only move on to the next shot when I hit my deepest truth,” she said.

Ponti, who is directing his illustrious mother for the third time, declared her to be in great form.

“At 84 she wants to put it all on the line to make a movie that is so deep, so challenging, both emotionally and physically,” he said. “The energy and passion with which she approaches every scene is a marvel to watch.”

The rest of the cast comprises transgender Spanish actress Abril Zamora (“Locked Up”), Italy’s Renato Carpentieri (“Tenderness”) Iran’s Babak Karimi (“The Salesman”) and non-professional child actor Ibrahima Gueye, who plays Momo.

While Mizrahi’s work is told through the point of view of Madame Rosa, “our movie follows the point of view of the book, which is Momo,” Ponti said. The film is set in the present in the southern Italian port city of Bari and works on different levels, said Ponti.

The first is the story of love and friendship between Madame Rosa and Momo, two people who could not be more different “culturally, generationally, racially, religiously,” Ponti said. “And yet they are cut from the same cloth of pain and having been brought up in the streets.”

The second level is that it’s “the story of a modern family,” Ponti added.

Madame Rosa is a Holocaust survivor and the head of this family. “Her three children essentially are a 35-year-old transgender [woman], a 12-year-old Senegalese street kid, and a 10-year-old Romanian street kid.”

Then there is the political level, “which is almost unnecessary to bring up…because it is baked into every frame,” Ponti said, but it’s not explicit. “It’s best for us to focus on the characters, to focus on the emotions…and then it’s up to the audience to talk about the politics behind them.”

The plan is for “Life Ahead,” which is produced by Italy’s Palomar with some equity financing from U.S. investors, to be ready in March 2020.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content