Photo: Jonathan Wong


MEETING CARLO PONTI We met by chance. My mother decided I should be in (films) and so, in my little town of Pozzuoli (near Naples, Italy), one day she bought two tickets. On the only day that she had money, she bought the tickets and we went to Rome, where they were shooting Quo Vadis (an American epic in which the 15-year-old Loren was an extra: her first acting role). I was there for about a month and one night I went into a nightclub with some friends. There was this contest - Miss Roma - and my husband was in the jury. I didn't know him - I didn't even know his name, because I was coming from a little town where the cinema was just a screen. He sent me a little note and asked me to be one of the girls who were competing - I was not really interested because I never thought I would do those kinds of things. But I said, "Well if he's asked me, I might as well have a little fun." So I did and I came second. At the end of the contest he asked to have a little talk with me and he said he was a producer and that he would like to see me in his office the next day, because he was producing a film and maybe had a role for me. I was in Rome to ask for a role, so I did go the next day. We started to see each other. He gave me the job and little by little … it happened.

ROLE CALL When Charlie Chaplin asked me to do ( A Countess from Hong Kong, 1967) I was really very, very happy. I would never have thought that he was going to ask me to be the lead in his last film. It was a wonderful relationship between me and Charlie Chaplin but it was a little difficult to work with Marlon Brando (Loren's Countess co-star), because he didn't have a very nice character. When he was being a little difficult, I would think about the first films I saw him in. The greatness of an actor like Marlon Brando made me forgive anything he would do to me because there was a lot to learn about him and about his acting - and he still was a very, very handsome man.

Marcello Mastroianni was the easiest person to work with because we were like brother and sister; we worked together in 12 films over 20 years. Each time a producer would come up with a story for me and him, we were so happy because we were like family, and we had a great sense of humour; almost the same.

BEING MUM I couldn't have children at first; I lost three children before having my own and when I was waiting for my first baby, I had to stop working. I was not, shall we say, a normal mother who has a child - she can work until she's nine months pregnant - no, no, that I couldn't do. When I knew I was pregnant, I was in bed for about eight months - with both children (sons Carlo Jnr and Edoardo). But I did write two cookbooks while I was in bed - I had a lot of time to think about them.

Of course, if you have a mother you adore it's always a good example, because it's an image you'll not forget. My mother was a wonderful example for me, wonderful. But you also have to make your own way when you have children, because the times are different. You learn little by little, also according to the character of the baby. I've done, I think, a nice job - I am a nine (out of 10, as a mother).

COMING TO HONG KONG When you come to a place like this, you think, "My God, it exists, a place like this. It's incredible, incredible. Beautiful, beautiful." (The media at the airport were) like Italian style; like Roman paparazzi. It's always a nice reception because you feel that people are very friendly to you.

My relationship with Damiani (the jewellery brand for which Loren is an ambassador: the reason for her coming to the city) has existed for quite a long time. I met with the family by chance and we started to see each other while I was on one trip, sometimes on another trip. One of the brothers said, "Why don't we ask Sophia if she's interested in co-operating with us, to make a few drawings. Let's have some ideas because we like her a lot and maybe we can do something together - maybe she has nice ideas as a woman." So we started little by little, me giving a little hint here and a little hint there. I am not a designer, but I thought about women; how they like to wear jewellery.

FAMILY MATTERS Switzerland is my home, and I travel - first of all for my children, then for work. My children, fortunately, have a couple of their own; a boy and a girl (each). They are in Los Angeles. I see them on holidays or whenever I can I go there - and I see them on the iPad. Every morning I ask the girl who is working with me, "Did you receive any pictures, any new films?" And every morning there is something; the first walk; the first banana the little girl eats. But, of course, it's not in person, but it's better than nothing.

I believe very much in the love of a family and (the most important piece of advice she'd give her grandchildren) is, save your family no matter what happens between you and your wife and the children. Don't answer back, just stay with them because that's what children need. And nest.