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Interview:
Sophia Loren brings talent, and tales, to the stage
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Sophia Loren admits that she was "trembling" at the prospect of talking in front of an audience when she began to do it last year.

Pretty surprising for a star of her magnitude.

Then again, as the Italian icon makes clear by phone from Geneva, Switzerland, where she now resides, the stage has not exactly been her home during her 66-year acting career. Rather, the 81-year-old Loren's comfort zone is on the screen, where she first appeared during 1950, at the age of 15, won an Academy Award for "Two Women" in 1962 and has appeared in scores of films, including "Marriage Italian Style," "Gumpier Old Men," "Nine" and many more, building a following with her screen-filling personality and beauty, whether delivering lines with sharp timing or singing. .

So when good friend and onetime paramour Cary Grant recommended the Q&A-style show to her after he tried it himself, Loren initially balked.

"I said I would never be able to it," recalls Loren, "because first of all you have to cope the audience, and then you have to speak English -- you have to have good pronunciation. I didn't think I could do it."

But once Loren -- who, in fact, speaks very clear English -- finally gave the "A Captivating Evening" show a shot, she was both surprised and pleased by how much she enjoyed it.

"When you go on the stage and you see the people, they accept you as you are," she recalls. "They WANT to accept you as you are. So if you are a person and you are warm to them and you are there just to say the real things of your life -- your joys, your sorrows -- they like to hear that. And I liked doing it -- very much."

Loren certainly has no shortage of things to talk about. Born Sofia Villani Scicolone in Rome and raised after World War II in Naples, she began in beauty pageants and moved on to acting classes. She was an uncredited extra in 1951's "Quo Vadis" and adopted her stage name -- influenced by Swedish actress Marta Toren - for 1952's "La Favorita," the year before her first starring role in a production of "Aida."

In addition to the Academy Award, Loren has also won five Golden Globes, six David di Donatello Awards, a Grammy and the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. She's also ranked in the Top 25 of the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Stars poll.

"You know, when you are 20 years old you don't think that one day you'll be my age, but when you are you still can't believe everything that's happened," Loren says. With acting, she adds, "It's a way of giving your feelings to the public, doing wonderful stories and expressing yourself in a good way. I think it's an enchanting profession to be in."

Assisted by "Entertainment Tonight's" Bill Harris, who serves as a moderator for her shows, Loren is happy to try to convey that to those who come to hear her.

"I want them to know me as I am -- not only through the films, even though in the films I always make things that are very close to my way of feeling, but who I am, really," she says. "People were wonderful. They wanted to know many things -- good things, little things that were funny, and they were laughing, kissing me.

"Yes, somebody wanted to kiss me. I said, 'You can come on the stage and kiss me. On the cheek.'"

Adiamo Italia restaurant chain owner Joe Vicari has been vying to get Loren's show to town since hearing about it through an agent in Los Angeles. He says that Loren's friendship with Frank Stella, who helped design and build the Detroit Opera House, helped to seal the deal, and while Vicari figured that "for the Italian community it would be a no-brainer," he's been pleased to see that in talking to patrons at all his restaurants "it hits many different ethnic communities."

"It's like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and any other legend, and so many of them aren't with us any more," Vicari notes. "(Loren) was an icon in her day and is still meaningful today, and I thought people would be very interested in hearing her stories."

Loren may not work much anymore, but he hasn't retired, either. She and her son Edoardo Ponti have purchased the rights to a film that Loren is not talking much about yet but hopes to begin filming before the end of the year. And she's always on the lookout for projects that are age-appropriate.

"I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and a desire to challenge myself. That's what I want. That's what I do," Loren says. "And I'm still beautiful" -- though she quickly adds, "I'm joking! My God -- You should see me, really. She would be amazed..."

"A Captivating Evening with Sophia Loren"

8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway.

Tickets are $29-$500.

Call 313-237-7464 or visit michiganopera.org.


Web Site: www.michiganopera.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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