After 60 years in film, actress Claudia Cardinale reveals that cinema saved her life

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Claudia Cardinale, the iconic actress, celebrated her 85th birthday, and her timeless beauty continues to captivate audiences.

Over more than six decades, Cardinale graced the screen with her breathtaking presence, becoming one of the most prominent actors of the golden era. While she didn’t initially plan on pursuing an acting career, her journey to stardom was marked by moments of trauma.

Outliving many of the Hollywood legends she once shared the screen with, Cardinale remains active at 85, and she firmly believes that “cinema saved my life.”

As an iconic actress, Claudia Cardinale has left an indelible mark on Italian and international cinema. Her talent, beauty, and versatility allowed her to portray a wide range of complex and memorable characters throughout her career.

Cardinale’s status as an international film star is a result of her talent, her distinctive Mediterranean beauty, and her ability to captivate audiences with her charismatic on-screen presence.

What’s even more impressive is that, at 85, she’s still actively engaged in the movie industry. The Tunisian-born Italian actress, who grew up in a multilingual family, was studying to become a teacher when she was discovered at 18.

Her path to fame began when she was crowned the Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia at an Italian film festival, which led to a trip to the Venice film festival and numerous offers from producers.

Despite these offers, she initially declined because she was pregnant. Her decision was driven by the belief that resisting immediate acceptance would make her more desirable.

One producer, Franco Cristaldi, captured her interest and signed her under an 18-year contract, which included both professional and personal terms. Cardinale eventually married him, and he tightly controlled her career, dictating everything from her movie roles to her hairstyle and social life.

When she became pregnant, Cristaldi insisted that the pregnancy be kept a secret, and her son was publicly introduced as her younger brother. Cardinale continued to perform in films while pregnant, leading to depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite her pleas to terminate the contract, Cristaldi sent her to London, away from the press, falsely claiming she was there to learn English for a role.

In 1975, her son, Patrick, was born, and she revealed that he was fathered by an unidentified man who had raped her. Patrick’s true identity remained a secret until he turned 19.

Cardinale survived a difficult relationship with Cristaldi, from whom she separated in 1975, but her career thrived. She made her debut in the French-Tunisian film “Goha” alongside Omar Sharif. Her talent quickly earned her recognition as one of Italy’s finest actors.

Notable roles in films like “Rocco and His Brothers” (1960), “8½” (1963), and “The Leopard” (1963) alongside Marcello Mastroianni and Burt Lancaster contributed to her fame. Director Martin Scorsese lauds the last two films, where she portrayed an unattainable object of desire, as two of his top 12 favorites.

Cardinale also gained traction in Hollywood, starring in “The Pink Panther” alongside David Niven and appearing with John Wayne and Rita Hayworth in “Circus World” (1964). Her portrayal of a prostitute in “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) earned her acclaim.

Cardinale’s on-screen collaboration with Brigitte Bardot in “The Legend of Frenchie King” (1971) delighted audiences. What set her apart from Bardot was her choice to never appear nude in films, as she believed that leaving something to the imagination was more alluring.

Her time in Hollywood was marked by success and stress. Cardinale expressed a desire to leave the patriarchal Hollywood system and accepted lower pay in Europe, emphasizing that she did not want to become a cliché.

Although her career slowed down, she embraced a quieter life away from the sexualized spotlight. She maintained that her dreams included exploring the world, and she achieved them. She never appeared nude in films and never altered her natural beauty. Cardinale appreciated being herself because she believed that time could not be stopped.

She married Italian director Pasquale Squitieri in 1975, and they remained together until his passing in 2017. The couple had one daughter, Claudia.

In 2022, Cardinale addressed rumors of involuntary hospitalization, confirming that she was in good health, living in France, and enjoying her time with family. She wished everyone a happy summer.

Today, Cardinale is a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for the Defense of Women’s Rights, actively contributing to important causes.

Claudia Cardinale’s life was marked by both trauma and success. Her story serves as an inspiration for women, and she continues to empower others with her experiences. We hope she remains in good health and continues to inspire people for years to come. Do you have a favorite Claudia Cardinale film?