Constable: Barrington native works with icon Sophia Loren in 'The Life Ahead'

  • As manager of international original film for Netflix, Barrington native Sara Furio developed the Italian film "The Life Ahead" and a friendship with the star, legendary actress Sophia Loren.

    As manager of international original film for Netflix, Barrington native Sara Furio developed the Italian film "The Life Ahead" and a friendship with the star, legendary actress Sophia Loren. Courtesy of Netflix

 
 
Updated 11/13/2020 6:21 AM

Eleven years ago, Barrington native Sara Furio graduated from DePaul University, ended her gig as the video editor at Willow Creek Community Church and started her career in film.

These days, the 33-year-old Furio is living in London, working as manager of international original film for Netflix and enjoying her friendship with film icon Sophia Loren -- the star of Furio's latest Netflix film, "The Life Ahead," which premieres today.

 

"We've talked throughout the entire process," Furio says Thursday from London, adding she and Loren are comfortable chatting in English or Italian. "We just spoke on the phone sharing our excitement about the launch."

Movie icon Sophia Loren stars in the new Netflix film "The Life Ahead," directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. As Netflix's manager of international original film, Barrington native Sara Furio worked on developing the film for four years.
Movie icon Sophia Loren stars in the new Netflix film "The Life Ahead," directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. As Netflix's manager of international original film, Barrington native Sara Furio worked on developing the film for four years. - Courtesy of Netflix

Furio has been working on acquiring and developing this film since 2016, giving her time to get to know the Italian film legend, who won an Oscar for her performance in the 1961 film "Two Women," received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1991 and might get another Oscar for her stunning performance in "The Life Ahead."

"I've met a lot of talent, and I'm blown away by her personality and humility," Furio says of the 86-year-old Loren. "She is so modest, and her witty personality is quite unexpected. She's great."

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Starting her film career as an impoverished teenager in Italy, Loren has starred in Hollywood films opposite Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra.

In the film "The Life Ahead," premiering today on Netflix, legendary actress Sophia Loren plays a Holocaust survivor and former prostitute who builds an unlikely bond with a troubled orphan boy from Senegal, played by Ibrahima Gueye.
In the film "The Life Ahead," premiering today on Netflix, legendary actress Sophia Loren plays a Holocaust survivor and former prostitute who builds an unlikely bond with a troubled orphan boy from Senegal, played by Ibrahima Gueye. - Courtesy of Netflix

In "The Life Ahead," Loren plays a Holocaust survivor and former prostitute who leans on a Muslim man and a transgender woman as she builds an unusual bond with a troubled Senegalese orphan, played by first-time actor Ibrahima Gueye.

The emotional and uplifting film, directed by Loren's son Edoardo Ponti, "speaks for itself," Furio says. "Sophia said it best in a recent interview: 'This film is a message of tolerance, forgiveness and love.' I just can't wait for people to see it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Inspired by the book "The Life Before Us" by French author Romain Gary, director Ponti pitched the idea to Furio four years ago.

"The story. The message. Sophia Loren. The package had quite the appeal," Furio says, adding that the Italian production company Palomar shared that vision.

Furio says she also has a built-in support system.

"You don't get to where you are in life without the support of others," Furio says. "My father (Lorenzo) taught me to dream big, regardless of the obstacles you face. And my mother (Louise) told me to NEVER give up on this project."

After college, Furio's work as a freelance video editor led to a job with Warner Bros. in Los Angeles. Since Netflix hired her in 2014, Furio has lived in Los Angeles, Amsterdam and London, where she resides now with her husband, Jake Knapik, a psychologist who works in the entertainment industry by focusing on the mental wellness of actors, producers, directors and crews. Knapik is her "biggest cheerleader," says Furio, adding her sister and brother, Catherine and Francesco, "are always beacons of support when things get stressful."

She says she feels most at home in Rome, where she finds the sunshine of L.A., a charm similar to Amsterdam and London, and "the kindness of the Midwest."

"One of the Italian producers of the film, Nicola Serra, is a huge Packers fan, so we often find ourselves not only talking about the film, but the Bears-Packers rivalry," Furio says.

Turning a dream into a movie was complicated by the coronavirus across the globe.

"The film was completed during the pandemic, in several different countries, all affected in different ways by COVID," Furio says. "It was a challenge and, in the end, made us more appreciative of the beautiful story we are trying to share with the world."

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