Sophia Loren on Thursday during an online press conference to promote her new film “The Life Ahead” – in which she plays a Holocaust survivor who forges a bond with a 12-year-old Senegalese immigrant boy – called the drama “a message of tolerance, forgiveness, and love.”
“We all have a right to be seen and listened too, otherwise it’s impossible to live,” Loren said. “We have a right to be loved, and to pursue our dreams,” the iconic Italian actor added.
In “The Life Ahead,” which marks Loren’s return in front of the camera for a feature film after a decade, Loren plays Madame Rosa, a tough Auschwitz survivor and former prostitute who cares for children of streetwalkers. Her doctor asks her to take in 12-year-old orphan Senegalese kid named Momo, who recently robbed her, and the pair become each other’s protectors.
Loren said that to play Madame Rosa she drew inspiration from her mother, Romilda Villani, a piano teacher. And from their wartime experiences together.
“She was an artist,” Loren said about her mom. And “when the Americans arrived” in Naples right after World War II, “we relied on her piano playing to eat,” she added. Loren also noted that her mother “had unpleasant experiences with her father” and that her “beauty and talent were crucial for our family.”
The film, which is produced by Italy’s Palomar and will drop on Netflix Nov. 13, is directed by Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti, who – besides speaking warmly about working with his mother – lavished praise on non-professional child actor Ibrahima Gueye, who is in every scene of “The Life Ahead” with Loren. “He had to carry the weight of this film on his shoulders,” said Ponti, and “he did this with a seriousness, rigor and passion that I will never forget,” he added.
“The Life Ahead” also stars transgender Spanish actress Abril Zamora (“Locked Up”), who said that Loren on the set, despite her mythical status, “was like an actress who is just starting out, with her doubts and uncertainties.”
“She was a great companion on set,” Zamora added, and a total pro. “She always stayed on set for the reverse shots, which very few actors do,” she also noted.
Loren’s return in a leading role that pulls at heartstrings is already generating Oscar buzz.
Asked about her Oscar prospects with this film she said: “Let’s hope for the best. I don’t know what to say. I don’t even want to think about it; we shall see.”
Loren has previously won two Academy Awards, one for her role in Vittorio De Sica’s 1960 “Two Women” (“La Ciociara”) and an honorary Oscar.
She said her experience working with De Sica, the neorealist master with whom she made four films, had been “crucial” in forging her career.
“It was wonderful, a wonderful school; a happy time that has had an importance that’s lasted all my life.”