Sophia Loren was on edge. Switched summarily from one bungalow to another at the Beverly Hills Hotel, hardly befitting an international star, she was doing the last of a string of interviews about her new television movie, "Courage."
The movie, airing at 8 p.m. tonight on CBS, is based on a true story of a Queens woman (called Marianna Miraldo), one of whose sons has become a "vegetable" from snorting cocaine. She volunteers to infiltrate, and, with help of authorities, manages to smash a $3.5 billion international drug ring.
In the slick, fast-paced movie, Loren appears to have more outfits than Geraldine Ferraro wore during the entire vice-presidential campaign. Her character also sports a range of wide-frame eyeglasses a la the Loren line.
Double-parked outside the bungalow stood a gray-stretch limousine that would transport her back to her 40-acre ranch in Hidden Valley. Loren kept looking over her shoulder as if to reassure herself it was still there. Los Angeles is the family's summer home. The main residence is in Switzerland where she lives with her husband, producer Carlo Ponti, and their two sons, Carlo Jr., 17, and Edoardo, 13.
The actress had come into town two days in a row to talk about her TV movie--and only that. She seemed surprised that anyone would want to discuss anything else. After all, A. E. Hotchner wrote the official book on her life, "Sophia, Living and Loving, Her Own Story," in 1979.
"I don't like to talk about these things, because I'm very tired," Loren said when asked about the status of her marriage; reports have surfaced in recent years that it was on the rocks. "And the real truth," she added, "is we have stayed together a very long time and we're still talking about this kind of thing and nothing has happened."
Asked, then, what cements their union, she sounded tired.
"I don't know," she said with a slight laugh, pausing to sip some Diet Coke, "many things, many things that are very personal. I tried to talk about these kinds of things in my book. And I thought that after that nobody was going to ask me."
Loren's throaty voice still retains the accents of Europe. Her chiseled beauty remains undiminished. She is at ease with herself, a woman who believes that "every season of life is nice." Approaching her 52nd birthday (it was Saturday), she makes you think, "Aha! That is the age when a woman is at her prime."
She was wearing a bright red print that on anyone else would look loud; her hair is now a burnished copper. But Loren can defy the rules. She was also wearing heart-shaped crystal-like earrings, with touches of gold and ruby. Real?
"Faux, " she whispered.
Not surprising. Fifteen minutes into the interview, there was a knock on the door, and Loren stiffened. Beebe Kline, a Rogers & Cowan publicist who has known Loren nearly 30 years, answered. Two hotel workers in uniform had come to fix the hot water heater.
Loren froze. "Who are they?," she muttered as the workmen retreated to an inside room. She was not mollified, and shifted her seat from the couch to a chair at the opposite end of the room to keep a closer eye on the visitors. "I was scared," she said.
After they left she explained that something similar had happened 15 years ago in her apartment overlooking Central Park, when two men dressed as policemen came checking a so-called gas leak. Instead it was a holdup.
"You don't open the door like this," she chided her publicist. "That's how they do it. When they came in my apartment they looked like two wonderful policemen."
"I liked very much the determination and this ferocious love for her son," said Loren of her character. "The emotional side of it, and the courage, courage, courage."
At home the actress speaks Italian. English is still her second or, probably after French, her third language, and she seemed less than comfortable in it.
A believer in the hidden meanings of coincidences, Loren said the role was suggested to her by her husband. "I was in New York, doing a promotion for the glasses or the perfume, I don't remember," Loren said. "I saw New York magazine and there was a cover about drugs, the mother, the whole works, about a woman who challenges this big corporate business, millions of dollars, all by herself, alone."
Loren said that after reading the article she went home to Geneva. "And I received a call from my husband. We were talking about drugs and drug problems, and (he said), 'You should make a picture about the drug problem.' He said he had a true story taken from New York magazine."
Loren has never met the real woman, Martha Torres, on whom her character is based. Torres lives under an alias.
"I like to do stories that deal a great deal with the problems we have today. I am still a mother," she emphasized.
"If you are a mother, this problem concerns you very intimately, because in this world we don't know how our children are going to end up. I don't know if a picture like this can help, but even a little drop in the ocean can be very helpful."