Sophia Loren was born Sofia Scicolone in Rome on the 20th September 1934. She was one of the great postwar Italian sex symbols.
Over the next two decades, Loren demonstrated the talent and range necessary to transcend her pin-up status; she appeared in some noteworthy films after signing a contract with Paramount in 1957 starring in EL CID 1961, with Charlton Heston and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE 1964 with Stephen Boyd. She earned a Cannes Festival award as well as an Oscar for her memorable performance in De Sica's TWO WOMEN (1961).
Loren, who made infrequent appearances during the 80s, received an honourary Oscar in 1991 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in recognition of her lifetime achievement in film, citing her as "one of the genuine treasures of world cinema."
from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
To many she's best remembered as the voluptuous, jet-haired siren of many 1960s Italian sex comedies, but this international star is a talented actress as well (the first performer to win an Oscar for a performance given entirely in a foreign language, as a woman raped by two soldiers in 1961's Two Women Born into poverty, she nursed ambitions of becoming an actress at a very early age, and as soon as her budding physical attributes would allow, she entered beauty contests as a steppingstone to that end. (She also appeared as an extra in Quo Vadis? filmed in 1949 but not released until 1951.) In fact, Loren first encountered her mentor (and future husband), Italian producer Carlo Ponti, when he helped judge a contest in which she was entered. He sensed star potential in the ambitious teenager, and signed her to a contract. She played a bit in the 1950 Federico Fellini film Variety Lights which launched her screen career in earnest. Loren's earthy sensuality made her an immediate screen favorite, and she achieved leading-lady status at the age of 19 in Aida (1953, playing the title role, though dubbed by diva Renata Tebaldi). Her other films of the period included Attila, The Gold of Naples, Two Nights with Cleopatra (all 1954), Too Bad She's Bad (1955), and Lucky to Be a Woman (1956).
As an established Italian star whose films got play dates in the U.S., Loren attracted the attention of American producers, who used her in Hollywood-financed productions shot abroad, including Boy on a Dolphin (which produced a muchpublished shot of a dripping wet Sophia), Legend of the Lost and The Pride and the Passion (all 1957), all of which teamed her with major stars: Cary Grant, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Alan Ladd. She exerted an undeniable fascination, although American moviegoers were more im pressed with her striking appearance than her thespic abilities. Indeed, when Loren made the inevitable pilgrimage to Hollywood, she was the recipient of a typical "glamour" buildup that detracted from her natural, earthy appeal and threatened to make her just another Tinseltown love goddess. She starred in Desire Under the Elms, The Key, Houseboat (all 1958), The Black Orchid, That Kind of Woman (both 1959), Heller in Pink Tights and A Breath of Scandal (both 1960), among others, before returning to Italy for Two Women pretty much remaining there for many years, though continuing to appear in international productions, among them El Cid (1961), The Condemned of Altona (1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Lady L (1965), Arabesque (1966), and Charlie Chaplin's A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).
In her home country, Loren was entering her peak period, starring in bawdy Italian fare-often opposite Marcello Mastroianni and directed by Vittorio De Sica-such as Boccaccio '70 (1962), Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow and Marriage Italian-Style (both 1964, and Oscar-nominated for the latter performance). She worked sporadically in the 1970s, most notably in Mortadella (aka Lady Liberty), the unfortunate Man of La Mancha (both 1972), The Cassandra Crossing (1977), Brass Target (1978), and Firepower (1979). Amid these mostly forgettable productions, A Special Day (1977) easily stood out, as it reunited her with Mastroianni, in a serious film directed by Ettore Scola. Loren has since moved to the U.S. and starred in a handful of TV movies and miniseries, including Aurora (1984, in which her son Edouardo Ponti made his acting debut), Courage (1986), Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim (1988), and an Italian television remake of Two Women (1989). Having written an autobiography, "Sophia: Living and Loving," in 1979, she starred in a television adaptation, Sophia Loren: Her Own Story the following year. She teamed up with Mastroianni again for Robert Altman's Ready to Wear/Pràt-ê-Porter (1994). In 1991 she received a second, special Academy Award for the whole of her distinguished career.