Edoardo Ponti on Sophia Loren- Actress, Icon, Mother

"It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is."

It's recently been announced that Sophia Loren will return to the big screen in a film directed by her son Edoardo. Production began in the southern Italian region of Puglia earlier this year and the film is slated for a 2019 release.

Based on the novel The Life Before Us by Romain Gary, Ponti cowrote the screenplay with Ugo Chiti, who recently cowrote Dogman with Matteo Garrone and Massimo Gaudioso. The film follows Momo, a Senegalese orphan boy who is about 10 years old. He is cared for by an elderly Jewish woman named Madame Rosa, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz and later became a prostitute in Paris. In their Paris apartment building, Madame Rosa made a small hideout in a cellar where she keeps artifacts of her Jewish heritage. The young boy tells the story of his life in the orphanage and of his relationship with Madame Rosa as her health deteriorates.

This will not be the first time that Ponti has worked with his mother. In 2002, he directed his first feature film, Between Strangers, staring Loren along with Mira Sorvino and Deborah Kara Unger. It's the story of three women, each dealing with her own personal crisis. Olivia is an artist who draws what she sees in her dreams. Catherine is a renowned cellist who has left her husband and daughter to search for her father. Natalia is a photojournalist who is haunted by the moral price for a photo. The film premiered at the 59th Venice Film Festival and was an international hit. 

In 2014, Ponti and Loren collaborated on his short film, Human Voice, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Set in 1950 Naples, the film follows Angela, a woman in her twilight years, who rides the emotional roller coaster of her last telephone conversation with the man she loves as he is leaving her for another woman. Loren in the role of Angela has a timeless sophistication about her as she treads a fine line of insanity and desperation. The film has been shown numerous times in the U.S. on Turner Classic Movies and is currently available to stream on the Criterion Channel.

I caught up with Edoardo Ponti in 2013 while he was in New York attending the premiere of his film, The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars. We talked about the film as well as growing up with his iconic parents, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

I'd like to ask you first about your current film, The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars, which was just shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. How did this project come about, and how are audiences reacting?

It's been an absolute success. The film has been screening around the world with great emotion by audiences, which is inspired by the poetic landscape and what the characters are going through with the subject of organ donation. A man is given the heart of a woman and the two characters vow to climb the Dolomites together if they make it to 6 months. The great Neapolitan writer, Erri De Luca wrote the screenplay. He was familiar with my work and sent me the script, and I fell in love with it, The genesis for him is he is a mountan climber, one of the few over 60, and actually had a heart attack while climbing in the Dolomites. 

What is the message that you would like to communicate through this film? 

The message is one of hope and courage and that as long as you have one heart beat left in your heart, it's not too late follow your dreams or rediscover an old love. As long as you have one heart beat left, it's never too late.

You wrote and directed your 2002 film, Between Strangers. Do you enjoy writing, or is your true passion, directing?

Filmmaking is a multi diverse experience. Writing and directing are very different; they come from two different parts of the heart. Writing is similar to shadow boxing.. you have to confront yourself, I am more comfortable being a co-writer. I prefer the collaboration of writing. As a director, you have to be able to ride all these different disciplines. The common thread is communication.

Let's talk about your family. What was it like growing up with two icons as parents? Did you feel like a regular kid, or did you feel that there was really something extraordinary about your household and your childhood?

It was extraordinary how ordinary my childhood was. That's from the intellegence of my parents. We were not a true Hollywood family. We had a group of friends that had nothing to do with film. We were raised to stay grounded and to never take anything for granted.

Your mother and your wife have had leading roles in your films. What are those collaborations like? 

My father produced many of my mothers films, so working with loved ones is natural for us. They are actors that I admire and they are part of my family, so it's quite natural for me and it's helpful in finding the right words to communicate. The lines of communication are already well-oiled and open.

I grew up watching your mother in films. I've seen her interviews, cooked recipes from her cookbook, and adored her for as long as I can remember. Tell me something, please, about Sophia Loren; the mother, the person and the woman when the cameras are off.

What's amazing is how grounded she is. She never allowed us to be seduced by her success or believe in the glamour of her profession. She is a woman who lives for her family and for her own personal growth. She has an enormous appetite to work and to tackle roles that she has not yet tackled.  It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is.. and I truly do. She is an exceptional human being.

You've had several roles throughout your lifetime: the son of icons, brother, husband, father, filmmaker. Do you feel that any of those roles stand out in defining you?

The sum of everything I have is the total of everything I've done. There is no question that the most important role is my role as father. In the end I am putting into the world two people and I am responsible in helping them grow up and also giving them enough space to be become their own people. It's a big responsibility.

The film is currently in production. We'll keep you updated on its progress.

Edoardo Ponti's 2002 film Between Strangers, starring Sophia Loren, Mira Sorvino and Deborah Kara Unger, is the story of how three women deal with their personal demons.