English translation of an interview that appeared in the Italian newspaper, Il Golfo, on 19 agosto 2003.
Q & A
Italian Journalist Oscar Pantalone Interviews John Palcewski:
Q. Tell me, John, what brought you to Forio?
A. I came to the island of Ischia in November, 1999, to gather material for an “imagenovel trilogy” I’m writing, based on the life of Maria, my girlfriend, who grew up in Buonopane. I believed that in order to fully understand her, I should spend some time studying the culture of the island that shaped her character.
Q. What do you mean by imagenovel?
A. It’s a new literary form I’ve created, in which my photographic images are used not merely as illustrations, but rather as an essential part of the novel’s narrative structure. In other words, the pictures convey as much information as the text itself.
Q. How far have you come in the project?
A. Books I and II of “Vittoria’s Island” are complete and in the hands of my literary agent in America, who is showing them to major publishers.
Q. Am I correct in presuming that you’ve named your main character after the famous Vittoria Colonna?
A. Correct. I think that extremely talented Renaissance figure serves as an excellent model, one that my Maria would be happy to emulate.
Q. In an earlier conversation with me, John, you mentioned that in the course of writing this trilogy you came across some rather surprising information. Can you elaborate on this?
A. Yes. Originally Maria’s story was that of a conventional love triangle. A married woman meets another man and falls in love, which sets up a struggle between husband, wife, and lover. But things took a wholly unexpected turn that made it a much more compelling story.
Q. So this story is basically a biography?
A. It is a true story cast in a fictional form, yes.
Q. Go on, please.
A. As I describe near the end of Book I, Maria learned that she needed to undergo an operation to remove a growth on her cervix. Her surgeon said it would be a good idea for her to obtain a supply of her rare blood type, as a precaution. The doctor suggested she ask her parents to give their blood. But when she asked her father, he refused. And he said also that her mother could not give blood either. This stunned Maria. She could not understand why her father would refuse such a request.
Q. What was the reason? Did he have medical problems?
A. No. He finally explained that he was not in fact Maria’s biological father. Rather, she was adopted in Naples, shortly after her birth on January 14, 1964.
Q. So who was her biological mother?
A. That was the first question she asked her adoptive father. At first he was reluctant to answer because he had intended to keep it a secret forever. But he finally admitted that her mother was a famous Italian movie star, who had been making a film in Naples entitled “Ieri, oggi, e domani.” Sophia Loren. Her co-star and lover was Marcello Mastroianni.
Q. That must have been quite a surprise.
A. Indeed it was. And it put Maria into considerable conflict. On the one hand, she was deeply hurt that she had been abandoned. On the other she was curious to know if Sophia had ever expressed any interest in learning what had happened to her daughter. But then Maria did not know if she could handle Sophia denying that she was her biological mother. A very complex situation.
Q. Did you have any doubts about the veracity of the story?
A. Of course. As a journalist I immediately began to investigate it. After several weeks of effort I came up with what American lawyers call a “compelling circumstantial case,” which strongly suggests it’s true. In any event, there is nothing that I uncovered that contradicts the story.
Q. What are some of the things that lead you to believe it is true?
A. Maria’s birth date is one that coincides with Sophia being in Naples making a movie. Another fact concerns the name Maria. In Maria’s family in Buonopane there are no women by that name. Sophia, on the other hand, has a sister named Maria.
Q. Please go on.
A. Sophia’s latest TV movie, “Among Strangers,” is one that she co-wrote with her director son, Edouardo. In it she plays the role of a woman with a dark secret—that many years ago she had given up a daughter for adoption.
Q. This suggests that in the role she drew from her own personal experience, doesn’t it?
A. Yes. But to my mind the most persuasive thing that makes the case is that Maria does not look like anyone in her family. But she does have a strong resemblance to both Sophia and Marcello.
Q. Have you taken photographs of Maria?
A. Yes, and I’ve put them on a website, www.Palcewski.com/M. Now, as I said before, all this does not add up to absolute proof. But it strongly backs up Maria’s father’s assertion.
Q. What does Maria plan to do next?
A. Maria remains very conflicted. She realizes that it would be extremely difficult to confront Sophia directly on such a delicate matter. But then she feels that if Sophia has never been able to find her, she ought to be given the opportunity. Perhaps Sophia might read this interview and then decide to make contact. Or not. It’s entirely her choice.
Q. Thank you, John, for sharing this fascinating story. I hope everything works out well for Maria.
A. You’re welcome, Oscar. I, too, hope this tale has a happy ending.
* * *
"I AM A WRITER, SEEKING SOFIA LOREN'S DAUGHTER"
The story of an
american short-story writer triggers curiosity on the isle. And it's already a
ISCHIA - "I am an american short-story writer and I'm following in the tracks of the illegitimate daughter of Sofia Loren." This piece of news, thrown in a banner headline, has obviously shaken the green isle. "Is Sofia Loren's illegitimate daughter at Ischia?": this was the question posed by Il Golfo, a newspaper directed by Domenico Di Meglio; in yesterday's edition it featured an interview with John Palcewski, american, photographer and eccentric writer of short stories, who speaks of a certain Maria, possibly the daughter of the famous Sofia. Palcewski has lived in Ischia since 1999, collecting material to make an 'imagenovel trilogy': the first two books have been already finished, and the third is close to completion. Palcewski's interviewer is Oscar Pantalone, a photographer, who in his foreword tells how he met Palcewski last June and how they instantly became good friends. In the interview, the american writer mentions that for a minor surgery, Maria needed blood from either one of her parents: "But when she asked her father, he refused." - says Palcewski - "And he said also that her mother could not give blood either... He finally admitted that he was not her biological father and that her mother was a famous Italian movie star, who had conceived her while making a film entitled 'Ieri, oggi, e domani': Sofia Loren indeed".
Palcewski tells his interviewer (who obviously asks what leads him to believe this is a true story) that he has investigated the whole matter for a long time and that he has put together a collection of clues which -- to use a common phrase -- amount to evidence. Truth or fiction? A good writer never tells. Meanwhile, this mysterious story has invaded the whole isle."
* * *
The New York Daily News 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.
* * *
English translation of a second interview that appeared in the Italian newspaper, Il Golfo, on 1 settembre 2003
Q & A
Italian Journalist Oscar Pantalone once again interviews John Palcewski:
Q: Is it possible that Sophia gave up a daughter for adoption
but never wished to see her again?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: I was happy to see that so far the news coverage has treated this story with the seriousness that it deserves. And of course I see it as a story of great pain and sadness.
Q: You appear to have very strong feelings about this story. Why?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: You have said that Maria does not wish to speak to the news media about this subject. Why?
A: 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.
Q: 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.
A: 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, Q, I hope—pray—this story has a happy ending.
* * *
An American woman has caused an uproar in Europe—claiming she is the love child of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
The woman—known only as Maria—is keeping her last name secret, but she told The ENQUIRER that she is not looking for any money from the star and won’t ask her to undergo a DNA test.
“I only wish that she confirms what my adoptive parents revealed to me about a year ago,” says Maria, 39.
The scandalous story is sending shockwaves across Europe and has been disclosed in detail to The ENQUIRER by Maria’s live-in companion, American photographer and author John Palcewski.
While Maria’s evidence is slim at best, her story is intriguing.
Last year, her parents divulged to her that her real parents were the two legendary movie stars, according to Palcewski.
“In 1963 Sophia and her co-star Marcello Mastroianni were filming ‘Yesterday, today and Tomorrow’ in Naples. While shooting that film Sophia realized she was pregnant, according to her authorized biography. She was 28 and married to producer Carlo Ponti.
“According to the biography, she suffered a miscarriage in her fourth month.”
In truth, there was no miscarriage, says Palcewski, who claims the newborn was adopted by a childless American couple.
Sophia Loren was unreachable for comment, but friends of the legendary star scoff at Maria’s claim, maintaining it is utter nonsense. Her agent Leonard Hirshan dismissed the charge with a “no comment.”
Concluded Palcewski: “Maria doesn’t look like anyone in her family, and I don’t see any reason for Maria’s father to make up such a story after keeping it secret for 40 years.”