John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

Sophia Loren & Maria DiCostanzo

In 2003 this story went all over the world:

An American woman has caused an uproar in Europe—claiming she is the love child of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

New York Daily News

Originally published on August 25, 2003

Sophia + Marcello = Maria?

Italian beauty Sophia Loren, the illegitimate child of actress Romilda Villani and Riccardo Scicolone, may have had a bundle of secrecy herself.

Or so claims John Palcewski, an American short-story writer. Palcewski told an Italian journalist that his girlfriend, Maria, who lives on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, is the daughter of the screen legend.

"[Her father] admitted [to Maria] that he was not her biological father and that her mother was a famous Italian movie star who had conceived her while making the film 'Ieri, oggi e domani' ['Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow']," Palcewski told the Italian press, citing a Loren film that won an Oscar in 1965 for Best Foreign Language Film.

"Her co-star and lover was Marcello Mastroianni."

[Mastroianni's only child, actress Chiara, was born to Catherine Deneuve.]

Sources in Loren's camp bristle at the accusation.

"She has no daughter," an irate woman at Loren's Switzerland digs told us over the phone. She would not give her name but explained she was employed to "clean the house" and "close the windows."

"People are crazy," the professional window-closer went on. "There are a lot of sick people who say they are her husband or child. Once a black lady claimed she was the daughter of Sophia Loren!"

Loren, the indisputable mother of two boys, writer/director Edoardo Ponti and conductor Carlo Ponti Jr., was unavailable for comment. Her U.S.representatives said she is in Europe and unreachable.

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Sophia over the years has refused to confirm or deny this maternity allegation because the evidence was--until now--largely circumstantial. Adding to the star's understandable skepticism was the fact that despite numerous media requests, Maria repeatedly declined to disclose her adoptive family’s name. Why? Because she feared dozens of reporters would relentlessly hound her family, causing huge turmoil.

A more complete and credible account has emerged.

Maria's family name, she finally has disclosed, is DiCostanzo.

Her adoptive father, Ernesto, was one of the sons of Pasquale Di Costanzo, a successful tradesman from the island of Ischia who in 1948 devoted his time and vast wealth to the restoration of Teatro San Carlo in Naples. He served as superintendent from 1944, immediately after the Allied occupation, until 1972. Assisting Pasquale throughout these years was his brother Salvatore “sasa” Di Costanzo.

As a young man Pasquale had gone to university in Milan, where he met a law school student named Carlo Ponti, who became lifelong friend of the Di Costanzos.

Many years later Ponti arranged a light-hearted tribute to Pasquale’s great work on the opera house. He persuaded Federico Fellini to include the Di Costanzo name in his movie, La Strada. The family reference comes in a scene where Zampono asks Gelsomina her name. She says: "Di Costanzo, Gelsomina."

In January of 1964 the wife of Ernesto, Felice, gave birth to a still born. At about the same time, on the 14th of that month, Sophia gave birth to Maria. Maria, in the present, reports an overheard conversation between her adoptive father Ernesto and his sister Anne, in which Ernesto says Carlo tried to persuade Sophia to keep the baby, he insisted he would raise it as his own, even though he knew the child was fathered by Marcello Mastroianni. Sophia refused, saying her newborn daughter “would one day be competition.”

Baby Maria was then given to Ernesto and Felice, who returned to their home on isola d' Ischia and claimed it as theirs.

When Maria was ten or eleven years old Ernesto was approached by a friend of a nurse in a Napoli hospital who demanded money to keep the adoption secret. Ernesto paid her, but she later came back with even more demands, so he moved the entire family to America.

How Did Maria Learn She Was Adopted?

In preparation for minor surgery, her doctor told her it would be a good idea to get a backup supply of blood. So Maria called her father Ernesto and asked him to provide it. He dropped the phone to the floor, then picked it up. "I can't give you my blood," he said, his voice quaking. "Don't ask me why." Maria told him to put mom on the phone. "She can't give you her blood either."

During a stormy family meeting some time later Ernesto said that she'd been adopted. Maria asked him who was her mother. "Loren," he replied. "She was too busy making movies to care for a baby."

Maria demanded more details.

"We raised you," Ernesto said. "That's all you need to know."

More On Ernesto Di Costanzo

Pasquale Di Costanzo’s reputation as a world-class fixer-upper at Teatro San Carlo was, Maria said, passed down to his son, who always sought to make things right. Especially when tragedy struck the family. One of Ernesto’s younger brothers was driving his motorino in Campagnano on the road from Buonopane to Ischia Ponte, which passes through one of the arches of the Pilastri, a 17th century replica of a Roman aqueduct. When he tried to pass a bus, he was crushed against the wall of the arch. His mother was devastated.

And then not more than six months later, another brother, who had gone to Argentina to work for an oil company, died in an apartment gas-leak explosion. Ernesto feared that this second blow would literally kill his still grieving mother, so he said nothing to her about the death.

His mother by then was very nearly blind with cataracts, and she had long enjoyed sitting in the living room as Ernesto, now the man of the family, read aloud frequent letters that his brother sent regularly. In the following days she kept asking Ernesto if there was any mail from her distant son, and Ernesto had sadly said no, mama, not today, perhaps tomorrow.

Ernesto could not bear her sadness and grief, and he knew he would never give her the bad news, so one day he composed a letter that his brother might have written had he still been alive. A made-up letter about how things were going so well in Argentina and so on. Ernesto continued composing and reading aloud those fictional letters for several months, until his mother finally died. She never learned about the second death because of his well-meaning intervention.

Sophia and Marcello

In 1963, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni were lovers, working on the film Ieri, oggi, e domani, in Naples. In Sophia's 2001 authorized biography she openly acknowledges she got pregnant “for real” during the filming of a story of a pregnant woman, but subsequently lost the baby in the fourth month. (“Sophia,” Stefano Masi, p.99)

In Sophia's most recent autobiography, published in July, 2015, she makes no mention of the daughter she gave up, but the title is "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," the English translation of the title of the movie in which Sofia is seen clearly pregnant with Maria.

Assuming there was no miscarriage as she claimed, Sophia couldn't terminate the pregnancy by way of abortion, so the only available option was for her, and her husband Carlo Ponti, to give the baby up for adoption.

Sophia was an illegitimate child who grew up with her sister, Maria, in the slums of Naples. When Sophia accumulated wealth being a movie star, she approached her biological father, Riccardo Scicolone, and paid him a large sum of money to formally recognize Maria, also his daughter. Sophia insisted he do this because she couldn't stand her sister being taunted by schoolmates as being born out of wedlock.

Although it’s a Italian tradition to name a child after parents, grandparents, or other close relatives, there are no Marias among the DiCostanzos of Isola d' Ischia. And Maria—honey blonde and fair--resembles no one in the dark haired, dark-skinned family.

Sophia Reaching Out To Her Long-lost Daughter?

Sophia's 100th film, “Between Strangers,” made in 2002, was one she co-wrote with her son, Edoardo Ponti, the director, in which she plays the role of a woman with a dark secret--giving up a daughter for adoption a long time ago, and her struggle with guilt, shame and regret.

Transcript of Scenes from “Between Strangers”:

Sophia as Olivia crumples up a charcoal drawing she’s made, tosses it away, a look of anguish on her face. Max, the gardener, tries to console her. He takes her to his greenhouse and offers her a drink of berry liquor.

“Yesterday,” Max says, “I saw this light in your eyes. And I felt…I felt finally I’m seeing the real Olivia. That light. That’s how it always should be for you. That’s what you deserve.”

Olivia looks at Max coldly.

“You don’t know what I deserve,” she says. Then she turns, walks away.

* * *

John, Olivia’s invalid husband, calls her into the room to see what is on TV. It’s a news interview of Amanda Trent, a famous sculptor, who as a child was sent from one foster home to another. She’s asked about how it felt not having real parents.

“When you have no roots,” Amanda replies, “you’re always searching for an identity. And as a child I found mine through my dreams.”

“Can you tell us about those dreams?” the interviewer asks.

“Well, I had two big ones. First, I wanted to be adopted.”

“Which at seven came true for you.”

“Yes, indeed it did. I’m very lucky. I have wonderful parents.”

“And the second dream?”

“I always wanted to be an artist and live in Florence.”

Olivia turns to John. “She’s my daughter. The artist Amanda Trent. We were just kids, you know? When my father found out about it, that was it. He locked me in my room. All I have of my baby was her first cry. Then my father took her away from my arms. Gave her up for adoption.”

John angrily says, “Olivia, this joke is over.”

“It’s not a joke,” Olivia replies. “It’s my baby.”

* * *

Later, in another meeting with Max, Olivia says: “You don’t know how I felt holding my daughter in my arms. If only I didn’t let her go that day.” She pauses. “My father didn’t take my daughter away from me, Max. I gave her up myself.”

“Olivia, you were only a child,” Max says.

“I could have held on tighter. You can’t imagine what a strong and beautiful woman she is now.”

“Where do you think she got it from? Hmmm? Where do you think she got it from?”

* * *


Maria has a resemblance to Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni.

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Italian Research

Book: Pasquale Di Costanzo, una vita per il San Carlo

Article about Pasquale:

Article about Pasquale:

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