Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Add to that list of great on-screen duos the Italian movie legends Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, who appeared in more than ten films together. Their 1977 film, A Special Day, directed by Ettore Scola, is one of their greatest and least characteristic collaborations: in it, she plays a frumpy housewife and he plays her gay neighbor, and they meet by chance in their apartment building. In this excerpt from an exclusive new Criterion interview, Loren recalls working with Mastroianni, who clearly meant very much to her, personally and professionally.
Well, to do another film with Marcello was something that—every time I was asked to do a film with Marcello, I said, “Yes, yes, yes,” without reading a script. Because I knew that with him everything was going to be all right. Because he knew me and I knew him. His sense of humor. His way of improvising. His way of not learning his lines, ever. And sometimes he would come on the set with his eyes open like this and say, “What am I going to say now?” And I'd say, “No it's your problem, you should have woken up in the morning a little earlier and learned your lines.” So there was always this kind of joke with Marcello, but of course, when you work with your partner for twenty years of your life, you know him as he was your brother, your husband, your everything. So, I mean, everything was fine. And also because I trusted him so much, because he was a great, great actor. He always knew what he was doing. But he always pretended not to know, and this I liked very much.