Sophia Loren Admitted to an Affair With This Co-Star 26 Years After His Death
"He looked as though he’d just stepped down from the screen: a dream come true."
In the late 1950s, Sophia Loren was in her early 20s and just coming to international fame as an actor. She'd already spent many years acting in Italian films and was in the process of crossing over into Hollywood—her Academy Award for 1960's Two Women was just a few performances away. During this important period in her life and career, the glamorous actor was in a relationship with Italian producer Carlo Ponti, and they planned to get married as soon as he and his wife found a way to divorce, which was not permitted in Italy.
One of the movies Loren starred in at this point was The Pride and the Passion, which featured two huge Hollywood stars. Despite her relationship with Ponti and her co-star's marriage to his third wife, Loren and one of her castmates had an affair, which she detailed in her memoir, years after the actor died. Read on to find out more about Loren's secret relationship with one of the most popular screen stars of all time.
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Loren was smitten with her co-star right away.
Loren filmed the 1957 war movie The Pride and the Passion in Spain along with Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. As Loren explains in her 2014 memoir Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life, she and Grant immediately bonded and ended up falling for each other, leaving Loren to choose between Grant and Ponti. (Loren had previously confirmed the affair with Grant in an interview two years earlier.)
"When I finally saw Cary's unmistakable profile at the door, I thought I'd faint," Loren wrote of first meeting the star, who was 30 years older, at a cocktail party in Madrid in 1956 (via the Daily Mail). "His tuxedo with the shiny lapels, his slightly graying hair, his elegance took my breath away. He looked as though he'd just stepped down from the screen: a dream come true."
They spent a lot of time together.
Loren wrote that Grant invited her out to dinner, which led to more off-screen meetings. "I was charmed by his dry wit, his wisdom, his affectionate manner, his experience," she wrote. "We started spending more and more time together."
She continued, "Both of us soon realized that the feelings between us were beginning to be laced with love—and we were scared."
Loren shared that, while she was with Ponti and the situation was already complicated by his inability to get a divorce, Grant was also married to his third wife, actor and writer Betsy Drake.
"Meanwhile, he lavished his attentions on me," Loren wrote. "We'd have dinner in small family-run restaurants on the Ávila hills, sipping red wine and listening to flamenco. Sometimes, we'd talk about our dreams, about a home and a person with whom to laugh and share one's life."
Grant may have even proposed to her.
According to Loren's book (via the Daily Mail), Grant wanted to marry her. "There was a gorgeous sunset outside as he turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said simply: 'Will you marry me?' My words got caught in my throat. I was like an actress in a movie who's forgotten her lines," she wrote. "I felt so small in the face of this impossible decision. 'Cary, dear, I need time,' I whispered breathlessly."
But, Loren later said that Grant didn't propose. "Cary Grant was a very handsome man and a wonderful actor, but he didn't propose," she told Radio Times in 2020 (via The Guardian), adding that it would have been "impossible."
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They made another movie together.
After filming The Pride and the Passion, Loren continued her relationship with Ponti, but it wasn't the last she saw of Grant. She said that he continued to send her flowers and met her in Washington, D.C. when she came to the U.S. Soon, they teamed up again for 1958's Houseboat. But, Loren wrote, "The magic of our time together in Spain had ended."
By the end of filming, any chances of a rekindling of their relationship were gone. Loren and Ponti were "married by proxy" in Mexico by their lawyers in an attempt to invalidate Ponti's Italian marriage. After hearing the news, Loren said that Grant told her, "'All the best, Sophia. I hope you'll be happy." (Ponti and his ex eventually got the divorce they were seeking when they and Loren moved to France.)
Loren explained why she ultimately chose to be with Ponti.
In a 2014 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Loren shared why she couldn't choose Grant over Ponti.
"Cary belonged to another world in America," she said. "I felt that I would never fit in there. I would never have a future there because of my nationality. I was scared to change completely in life without knowing if this relationship or quasi relationship was going on."
She said that she saw him a couple more times over the years, including when he visited the set of Two Women.
"One day he called me in New York where I was for another film. 'How are you?' 'I'm fine,' I said. 'Why are you calling?' And he said, 'Because I wanted to say ciao,'" Loren shared. "That was it. He died. He must have known he was dying."
Grant died at the age of 82 in 1986. Loren, now 88, starred in her most recent movie, The Life Ahead, in 2020. She remained married to Ponti until his death in 2007.