“I woke up before dawn to watch on TV The Great Beauty winning at the Oscars," Sophia Loren tells us excitedly. She's on the phone from her house in Geneva, Switzerland, nine hours ahead of us here in Los Angeles. “It was great to see how the audience at the Dolby Theater welcomed the film and Sorrentino. The Oscars always represent a very special moment to me. They are exciting and stimulating, they make you feel the joy of your work right on your skin, they are magic moments, the best of my life for sure!”
Mrs. Loren, you have had many of those nights, isn't that right?
Yes, I won two Oscars, one as an actress for Two Women" (La ciociara), and one as a lifetime achievement.
You were at the Academy Awards in 1999 when Roberto Benigni won as best actor for Life is Beautiful, which also won the Oscar as best foreign movie. What are your memories of that night?
I remember that evening very well. Roberto and I did the red carpet together, and I told
him: "Now, listen to me, please do not do any practical jokes when you are inside or up on the stage, be careful!" I was concerned, because the month before I saw what Roberto did at the Sanremo Music Festival, when he, in a jest, started peeking under the skirts of the ladies, on live TV! It was a lot of fun, but not Academy Award material. I told him: "Those kind of jokes are not going to be OK here." Roberto couldn't resist and did his shtick when his name was announced - you all remember his "Pinocchio moment" when he walked over the chairs and on top of people. And yet it turned out to be a wonderful moment, one of those you never forget.
Are you a fan of The Great Beauty?
Of course. I've seen all the foreign films nominated this year and I voted for Sorrentino's movie. Sorrentino is extremely good as a director and author; he reminded me a bit of Fellini, who was a genius, as Sorrentino has rightly recognized. The actors in the film also are excellent. It was beautiful seeing Paolo get on stage with his lead actor, Toni Servillo, at his side. Servillo is an amazing man. He's the classic Neapolitan that knows how to live life at its fullest, with its pains and delights. Servillo can be likeable and unlikeable, but he always wants to do good at these events, he seduces you with his shrewd and wide smile. I enjoyed everything of that night.
Do you think time was ripe for an Oscar to an Italian film, 15 years since the last one?
I don't know about time, but let's all enjoy this moment. It's so beautiful that we won an Oscar with this film, so aptly titled!
Many of the films I've watched this year, including the ones that won multiple Oscars,
were not much better than The Great Beauty, in my opinion. We did many good things in
Italy in the past, and we have to keep doing it. In order to do this we need a push, an encouragement. We should thank these talented people we have in Italy. And we should thank the U.S. for having bestowed on us all these beautiful awards, which we were indeed in need.
So you think this Oscar could embolden the Italian film industry?
Absolutely. Everybody's talking about that in Italy, and rightly so. I'm very happy. We needed this boost of luck, as well as the chance to show how many talented people we have in the film industry. We are good! I'm moved every time I see talented people rewarded.
Paolo Sorrentino said that [soccer champion] Diego Armando Maradona, with Fellini, Talking Heads and Scorsese, have inspired him, along with the city of Naples. What do you think?
Being a Neapolitan myself, I certainly appreciated that statement. Naples is Naples, and its people are unique. Naples has given a lot to Italian cinema and to the whole world. Sorrentino was able to make a film amidst the terrible financial crisis that fell on us. But you make film with ideas, other than money. The Great Beauty" is the greatest example of a film based on ideas.