The legendary actress Sophia Loren tells us why she had to fulfill a lifelong ambition to shoot a classic monologue by Jean Cocteau.  

To say that the word ‘icon’ has lost its gravitas in the modern zeitgeist would be accurate, but there are still a chosen few who can genuinely lay claim to that title, and the enigmatic actress and beloved screen goddess Sophia Loren is undoubtedly one of them. Given her arguably unparalleled status in the history of cinema, it’s perhaps, interesting to note that her beginnings in life were unlike those of the stars of the current era who are often the children of wealth, fame and privilege. Living with her grandmother in Naples, Loren witnessed war and poverty in her formative years, disturbing experiences that would come to shape the performance that garnered the attention of the world – the unfathomably resilient Cesira in the multi-award-winning Two Women, a searing tale of a mother and daughter caught in the cross re of war, who suffer gang rape inside a Catholic Church, directed by the prolific director Vittorio De Sica. While much of her vast catalogue of subsequent work was more commercial in nature and witnessed her become the leading lady to revered heroes of the post-war era such as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman, she has never lost her penchant for taking on a challenging role. In this extract from AUTHOR we nd that the octogenarian is far from reclusive, and refuses to rest upon the laurels of past successes. In fact, she chose to mark her entry into her golden years by starring in a short lm directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, based upon the classic monologue The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau; a short which documents the descent of an ageing woman into obsession and madness. Here, she discusses what inspired her to inhabit a character that suggests some uneasy truths about the human condition.

“The Human Voice is a monologue that every actress who has reached the highest peak would like to do and to do it has been on my mind since I was very young. Of course, when I was young, I could not do it, as it needs a woman that is in the later years of her life. There is no real tragedy when you are young because you have your whole life ahead of you. It’s when you are older that the problems start, and I think you begin to die emotionally after a little while; in a way, you die and that’s just the way it is. So, when I finally reached the right age, I spoke with my son, and I said, ‘Let’s try and buy the rights, and let’s think seriously about doing this short.’ It was wonderful because it was really something we started together – our project. He wrote the project with another author and they worked very quickly. When they came to me with the scenario they had created, it was a beautiful one, and it was exactly what I always had in mind for the monologue. It touched my heart completely. When you live a dif cult life, you start to build something inside of yourself, and you can use that in dif cult situations when you’re acting. For us Neapolitans, it is a very dif cult life, but there is something very successful in it, because, for Neapolitan people, just the fact that you are alive can make you happy – that is our philosophy. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t like what I see in the world, but I am a very positive person, and I like to see positive things in front of me, and, at the beginning of the day, every day, I know, I have to start living. It’s the beauty of the soul, the beauty of how you see life that’s important – the beauty of finding the joy in being alive, and how you see and receive love.”