Swedish Dolce Vita star and '60s sex-symbol Anita Ekberg dies

The '60s sex-symbol, who had long lived in Italy, shot to fame in Fellini's classic

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 6:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 6:24am


Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born actress and sex-symbol of the 1950s and ‘60s who was immortalised bathing in the Trevi fountain in La Dolce Vita, has died. She was 83.

Ekberg’s lawyer Patrizia Ubaldi said she died in Rome yesterday after a series of illnesses.

Ekberg had long lived in Italy, the country that gave her worldwide fame thanks to the iconic dip opposite Marcello Mastroianni. The scene where the blond bombshell, clad in a black dress, calls out “Marcello” remains one of the most famous images in film history.

Her curvaceous body and glamorous social life made her a favorite of tabloid press in the 1950s and 1960s. She married twice but never had children – a fact she came to regret later in her life. Some gossip magazines called her “The Iceberg” in a nod to her Scandinavian background.

But even as she became one of Sweden’s most famous exports, Ekberg maintained a problematic relation with her native country. She never starred in a Swedish film and was often at odds with Swedish journalists, who criticised her for leaving the country.

Born on September 29, 1931, in the southern city of Malmo, Ekberg grew up with seven siblings. In 1951 she won the Miss Sweden competition, after being recommended to enter by organisers who saw her on the street, and went to the US to compete for the Miss Universe title.

She didn’t win but became a model in Hollywood and later took on small acting roles. Her role in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – where she played a movie star – shot her to stardom. The movie was a colossal success and came to define the wild days of the early 1960s.

Hosting a Swedish radio programme in 2005, Ekberg recalled shooting the scene in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. She said it was shot in February, the water in the fountain was cold and Mastroianni was falling over in the fountain drunk on vodka.

“And there I was. I was freezing,” she said. “They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn’t feel my legs anymore.

“I can’t stand watching it anymore, but it was beautiful at the time,” she said.

Ekberg remained in Italy for years, appearing in scores of movies, many forgettable. She returned in two Fellini movies: Clowns and Intervista.

Ekberg married Briton Anthony Steel in 1956, but divorced him four years later. In 1963 she married again to actor Rik van Nutter, but that marriage also failed.

In an interview with Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2006, Ekberg said her only regret in life was never having children.

“I would have liked to have a child, preferably a son,” she was quoted as saying. “It didn’t turn out that way. That’s life, you just have to accept it.”