I’ve always liked playing strong women. They’re interesting. They inspire me. And one of the reasons I decided to come back to acting for the film The Life Ahead was that I admired my character, Madame Rosa, so much. She’s strong, but she’s not scared to show her vulnerabilities either. And she is a lover of life, just like me.
When I started out in this business, I didn’t know where I was going. I took it one day and one film at a time. For me, it was hard because when I began to make American films, I couldn’t speak English. But I worked day and night and learned very fast because, of course, that’s what it takes. You have to believe in yourself. And as an actor, you always have to give and give, even when you sometimes feel you can’t. If you work hard enough and don’t give up, your dreams do eventually come true.
Still, I made sure to never let anyone define me or my career. If things didn’t feel right [with a project], I didn’t do it. Early on, I had the opportunity to work with the great director Vittorio De Sica on The Gold of Naples [in 1954], and he taught me that what matters most are your self-esteem and your dignity. Everything else comes second.
My confidence came from having that clarity. It came from being grounded and knowing where I wanted to go with my life. It also came from knowing what my strengths and weaknesses were. But I am not weak. [laughs] I’m so strong that, when I’m in character, I can always really go for it. But even after years and years of acting, I have never really felt like a movie star. Even now. Never. For me, it’s more about my work as an actress and choosing projects that I thought I would be best in.
Whenever a film came out, I was always kind of relieved when it was over. Yes, the red carpet is nice because when you go to a première and you wear the dresses, it’s because you like the movie that you’ve made and you want to share that happiness with other people. But I never thought much about being a fashion icon or anything like that. I just like beautiful things. I like fashion, and I like things that look nice and make me feel good. But good style is something that allows people to see you, not the clothes that you are wearing.
Much was talked about my looks, but I don’t think I was seen for all of my sides. I never even think about things like beauty. Because you have to have a brain too. And you will never be beautiful if you are not beautiful on the inside. For me, music is the most beautiful thing in the world, especially a great Brazilian bossa nova because I love to dance. It drives me wild, if you can believe it. [laughs]
I think my greatest accomplishment is that I’m now a very old lady—86 years old—and I’m still just as excited about making movies as I was when I was 26. It’s what I love. My other love is my family. I have two sons and four grandchildren, and my life is a very happy one because of them. I want to be remembered as a woman who has found strength and meaning in her passion for both her work and her family. I want to continue on this great adventure. I want to continue acting as long as there are great stories to tell. I want to continue to live the life I have chosen.
As told to Jennifer Ferrise.
The Life Ahead, directed by Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti, is streaming now on Netflix.
For more stories like this, pick up the January 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Dec 18th.
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