30 agosto 2003
The following is an English translation of an interview that appears in the 1 settembre 2003 edition of the Italian newspaper "Il Golfo."
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Oscar: Is it possible that Sophia gave up a daughter for adoption but never wished to see her again?
John: It’s possible, but we must remember the last movie Sophia made in 2002. It is entitled “Between Strangers,” and she made it in collaboration with Edoardo Ponti, her son, the director. In a role that she wrote for herself, she plays a woman with a big secret. Which is that many years ago she gave up a daughter for adoption and has been struggling with guilt for nearly 40 years. That suggests to me that Sophia is somehow trying to make contact, after having failed to do so all this time.
Oscar: After the Il Golfo interview was published, newspapers like Corriere Della Sera and The New York Daily News picked up the story. What was your reaction?
John: I was happy to see that so far the news coverage has treated it with the seriousness that it deserves. And of course I see it as a story of great pain and sadness.
Oscar: You appear to have very strong feelings about it. Why?
John: My passion comes from a deep personal understanding of what Maria is going through now. Like her, I too was abandoned as an infant by my mother. My father and others in his family said she was an immoral, sinful and wicked woman. But later in life I found my mother. She told me the whole story, which I will not get into now. But I soon came to understand that she was not the evil person everyone made her out to be. And that is why I now have great empathy for Maria. And for Sophia as well.
Oscar: Many have suggested that perhaps your deep love for Maria leads you to believe this incredible story is true. How do you react to the question?
John: Yes, I can understand why some people would feel that way. But I have been a journalist all my professional life, and when I first heard the story I was skeptical. In my investigation, I was sure that I would quickly find facts showing that the story is false. But to my great surprise I found compelling circumstantial evidence that supported the story, and not a single contradiction anywhere.
The date of Maria’s birth fits perfectly with Sophia’s being in Naples filming “Ieri, oggi e domani.” In Sophia’s authorized biography she acknowledges getting pregnant at that time, but then said that she lost the baby in “the fourth month of pregnancy.”
There are many other things that led me to the conclusion that Maria’s adoptive father did not lie when he revealed that Sophia is her biological mother.
Oscar: You have said that Maria does not wish to speak to the news media about this subject. Why?
John: Maria has asked me to keep her identity and location secret because she does not want the stress that would surely come from talking to news people.
Learning of the adoption a year ago has affected her profoundly, and other emotionally wrenching things have occurred both directly and indirectly from the experience. Meanwhile she's quite conflicted and ambivalent in her attitude toward Sophia.
On the one hand she wants nothing to do with a woman who abandoned her. On the other, it's possible that Sophia has tried all these years to find her daughter, but failed. Fairness demands that Sophia be given an opportunity to do so, or not, as she wishes. Which is why I agreed to do an interview with you for Il Golfo. It was the only way I could be sure that Sophia would learn that her daughter is alive.
When Maria asked me to see if I could get in touch with Sophia privately, I told her this might open her to further distress if, for example, Sophia decided to deny that she is the mother.
For a year I tried unsuccessfully to contact Sophia. Not even a friend of mine at CNN in Atlanta could get beyond Sophia's manager in Los Angeles.
Oscar: I have heard that a journalist has recently gotten in touch with Sophia about this story, and she has replied that she will not comment on it. What do you think that means? Obviously saying “no comment” is neither a denial nor a confirmation.
John: We can never know what is in the mind of another. A pessimist, or one who always takes a negative view of life, would suggest that Sophia is not commenting because she is trying to protect her reputation. She is, after all, the Italian national symbol of motherhood and family values.
An optimist, on the other hand, would say she is merely taking some time to collect her thoughts and work through some extremely conflicting emotions. It’s interesting to realize that as long as I’ve known Maria, she has always reacted to difficulty and hardship in one way. And that is to run away for several weeks, and be unreachable in her silence.
In my nearly four years on Ischia I have learned this is a typical Italian trait. But in my view, refusing to speak openly of painful things does not lead to healing. Rather it unnecessarily prolongs the suffering.
Maria, of course, is suffering, as she has for the year since she learned she was adopted. And I do not doubt Sophia is struggling with her own extremely painful feelings as well.
But nevertheless I’m an optimist. I believe that honest and open communication between two people, even about the most complex of difficulties, will lead to resolution. As I've said to you earlier, Oscar, I hope—pray—this story has a happy ending.
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