After Ponti's death in 2007, when asked if she would ever remarry, the actress said, "No, never again. It would be impossible to love anyone else."
Finding that one person who is your soulmate isn't easy. In fact, it's about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. But every now and then, there are some people who beat all those odds and actress Sophia Loren is one of them. From The Fall of The Roman Empire to The Pride and the Passion, this iconic woman managed to captivate an entire industry, from actors to fans, with her talent and beauty. But she only had eyes for one person — her husband, Carlo Ponti. In fact, their love story is a better fairytale than most. And like one, it starts off with a not-so-glamorous life.
For Sophia Loren, being born as an illegitimate child of a single mother and suffering from poverty, lessons were learned the hard way. She had survived living in a town ravaged by the destruction of the Second World War, nights with next to no food, cramped living spaces and the taunts of her peers for being illegitimate, according to Vanity Fair.
But it wasn't until she was 14 that everything changed for her. From a skinny, awkward girl, Loren blossomed into a beauty. “It was as if I had burst from an egg and was born,” she said according to the magazine. Soon after her mother had entered her into a beauty pageant, which she won, there was no looking back. Little did young Loren know that this would lead her directly to the love of her life.
It was while 38-year-old, Ponti (at the time) was in the audience of a beauty contest he was judging that he saw her. He was still a married father-of-two then, yet the moment they laid eyes on each other, there was no denying that they had something special.
“I knew immediately she was someone remarkable. Something played off her that gave her a kind of illumination," said Ponti, according to This Is Glamorous. But as a producer with 20 films under his belt already, he was more focused on seeing her talent and whether it could be shown to the world which was why, after the contest, he invited her to his office for a screen test. Soon there was no looking back.
Starting with Aida in 1953 and then The Gold of Naples the following year, her fame grew exponentially. Tons of men coveted her, including many actors such as Richard Burton who described her as “beautiful brown eyes set in a marvelously vulpine, almost satanic face Stupendously intelligent. Beat me at Scrabble twice," and singers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who wrote a song for her.
Yet, no matter how much she was surrounded by beautiful men, there was only Ponti for her. And she was determined to be with him, willing to wait as she was also still a teen.
Due to Ponti's marriage, even though he was separated, legal and religious issues stopped him from marrying Sophia, though they continued to see each other. "True, he was married and we had to be careful, only later would our fondness turn into love," she told The Daily Mail. But the actress couldn't bear to be the "other woman" in his life, mainly because of the morals she had learned from her own strict and conservative upbringing. “What I wanted to have was a legitimate family,” she said, according to Vanity Fair, “a legitimate husband, children, a family like anybody else. It was because of the experience I had with my father.”
Still, as their love continued to grow, Ponti was with her every step of the way as her career rose to heights many couldn't even dream of. The two were fire together and when she turned 20, he proposed to Loren with a diamond ring. Marrying in a secret ceremony in September 1957, they were over the moon. But that happiness came crashing down when the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge his divorce from his first wife and Loren and Ponti were forced to get their wedding annulled.
"I was being threatened with excommunication, with the everlasting fire, and for what reason? I had fallen in love with a man whose own marriage had ended long before. I wanted to be his wife and have his children. We had done the best the law would allow to make it official, but they were calling us public sinners. We should have been taking a honeymoon, but all I remember is weeping for hours," she said.
No matter how many admirers she had such as Marlon Brando, or some who even wanted to tie the knot with her, like Cary Grant, there was only one man for her. "I was content to be lucky enough to finally have someone beside me who knew how to speak to me, who could give me advice, who supported me in the parts I chose, which is crucial when an actor is just starting out," she said.
"I was trying to get ahead but without taking any false steps, and knowing that Carlo was on my side was a huge help. There was something fatherly about his presence, too, and I'd never had a real father."
A few years later, the couple knew they had to figure something out. So they changed their citizenship from Italian to French and finally had a wedding that was deemed legal in 1966. Loren had always wanted to start a family and she was finally close to it. But heartbreak followed when she suffered miscarriages. Cindy De La Hoz, author of Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style, told Express UK, "After suffering two miscarriages in the mid-1960s Sophia feared she would never fulfil her dream of becoming a mother."
Loren and Ponti had their first son together, Edoardo, in 1973. The couple went on to have another son. “For the first time in my life I had everything I wanted,” Loren said. She later admitted, “I was more of a mother than an actress.” But for decades to come, the Sunflower actress was still an inspiration to women across the globe. And her love story was one too.
For 50 years, the couple was more than happy together, enjoying the life and laughter they shared. They remained that way until Ponti's passing in 2007, at the age of 94. But just because she's on her own doesn't mean she wants anyone else either. When asked if she would ever remarry, she said, "No, never again. It would be impossible to love anyone else."