Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Sophia Loren Interview -

The face, the enormous almond-shaped eyes, aquiline nose, chiselled chin and neck, is legendary and the wide, Italian hips flagrantly emphasise a figure that has created millions of fantasies and made as many movie dollars. Sophia Loren still projects a powerful sexual mystique.

She is a star survivor, a woman who has stared age in the face until time blinked. She is positive and erudite, an hourglass of wisdom.

She is also the Continental celebrity who has maintained an international appeal over almost four decades. Bardot -- who celebrated her sixtieth birthday last year along with Loren whom she loathes over her rival's decision to accept a multi million dollar contract to advertise fur coats -- Claudia Cardinale, Monica Vitti, Gina Lollobridgida have, to be kind, faded.

Loren flourishes especially in 'Pret-aPorter' (aka 'Ready to Wear') which is maverick director Robert 'MASH' Altman's irreverant fun focus at the fashion business. The movie which opens this week reunites Loren with her longtime co-star Marcello Mastroianni . It is very much an ensemble piece but many including Meryl Streep who called Loren's performance 'a revelation ' believe 'the old lady' steals the show.The Italian icon is radiant. She is the wife and mother caught rather than trapped in the body of a sex symbol. Somehow all the wrong bits -- the large mouth, weak chin and those hips that got an alphabet of men from Cary Grant to Peter Sellers into trouble -- add up to exotic arithmetic, one of life's more magnificent accidents

She and her husband, the film producer Carlo Ponti,81, have homes in Switzerland , Florida and the American West Coast -- these days they spend most of their time in a quiet. leafy, suburban corner of California on the east side of Los Angeles -- powerful connections, a worldwide following and enormous wealth but Loren's most beloved treasures are her sons Edoardo,22, (Edoardo) and Carlo Junior,26.

She is one of the century's most famous faces who laughs now that aging well is the best revenge and, yes, the lines are there as she flashes her Beverly Hills teeth and the face is softer around the landmark cheekbones but you'd have to be a nitpicking nincompoop not to realise this is a stunning woman who just happens to be getting on a bit.

She is as pragmatic as she is graceful about growing old:' Age isn't a privilege -- it is a condition. The difficult time for a woman isn't reaching 60 or 70 but turning 30. Women are children until they are 30. Only then do they become adults.

'I've never hidden my age from the world because I don't care. We can't hide time. I'm not frightened of it. I'm finding my second youth.

'Actually, I rather like birthdays. It is a good reason to talk to yourself, to ask yourself what you have been doing, what you are doing and what you will do. Girls who can't go off and talk to themselves stay girls and never become women. Women who can't take stock turn to drink, take pills or worse, but I can take stock. I can send for the bill of life and add it up too. If I ever feel depressed I consider what I have done and what I have accomplished -- starting from nothing and arriving now with so much happiness.

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