Italian, French speaking, born and raised in Tunisia from a wealthy family of Sicilian origin, Claudia Cardinale begins acting since the times of High School. Noticed in the frame that René Vautier dedicated to her in his documentary Anneaux d’or, she is called by the director Jacques Baratier in the cast of the French- Tunisian film Goha (1958). At the same time she wins a beauty contest organized for the Week of the Italian Cinema in Tunis, for which she conquests a trip to the Venice Film Festival, where she is offered the opportunity to enroll at the Experimental Film Center. Overcome some difficulties with the Italian language, she is put under contract by Vides of Franco Cristaldi, who lets her to debut in the Italian cinema with Mario Monicelli in Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958). Her first starring role arrives with Pietro Germi, in The Facts of Murder (1959) from the novel Pasticciaccio by Gadda. In 1960, she works with authors such as Mauro Bolognini (Bell’ Antonio), Citto Maselli (The Dauphins), Luchino Visconti (Rocco and His Brothers). The following year Bolognini calls her to work next to Jean Paul Belmondo in The Lovemakers, while Valerio Zurlini offers to Claudia her first important role in Girl with a suitcase, for which she wins the Special David di Donatello. In 1962 she is again with Bolognini in Careless. The final consecration arrives in 1963 when, together with Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon, she plays Angelica in The Leopard by Luchino Visconti. In the same year she wins her first Silver Ribbon, playing for Luigi Comencini in Bebo’s Girl, while Fellini gives her the role of Claudia in 8 ½ and Citto Maselli calls her in Time of Indifference. In the wake of these successes she debuts in Hollywood, directed by Blake Edwards in The Pink Panther (1963), which will be followed by, among the others, Circus World by Henry Hathaway (1964) with John Wayne and Rita Hayworth, and The professionals (1966) by Richard Brooks.
In Italy Visconti wants her as protagonist in Sandra (1964) and she works together with Ugo Tognazzi in The Magnificent Cuckold by Antonio Pietrangeli (1964). In 1967, the year when she marries the producer Franco Cristaldi, she plays the role of the desperate wife in The day of the Owl by Damiano Damiani, for which she wins her second David. In 1968 she works in the westerns masterpiece of Sergio Leone, One upon a time in the West, and the following year we find her playing next to Nino Manfredi in The Conspirators by Luigi Magni and The Adventures of Gerard by Jerzy Skolimowsky. In 1971, she gains her third David by acting with Alberto Sordi in A Girl in Australia by Luigi Zampa. After playing for Marco Ferreri in The Audience (1972) in 1974 she interprets Blood Brothers, the first film by Pasquale Squitieri, who will become her partner the following year and with whom she will play, among the others, also The Iron Prefect (1977), Father of the Godfather (1978) and The Gun (1978), for which she earns her Best Actress Award at the Festival in Belgrade. After a series of comedies, we find Claudia among the interpreters of Jesus of Nazareth by Franco Zeffirelli (1976) and in Si salvi chi vuole by Roberto Faenza (1980). In 1982 she wins the second Silver Ribbon as Supporting Actress for The skin by Liliana Cavani. Then she is also next to Klaus Kinski on the adventurous set of Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog (1982) and takes part in the transposition of Pirandello’s Henry IV (1984) with the work by Marco Bellocchio. In 1984 she works again for Pasquale Squitieri in Claretta, in the role of the Duce’s mistress for which she wins the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Globe and her third Silver Ribbon.
Moving to France, Claudia Cardinale is honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards like the Golden Lion in 1993, the David in 1997, the European Silver Ribbon in 2000, the Golden Bear in 2002 and the Golden Leopard at Locarno in 2011. Due to her commitment for the Defense of Women’s Rights, in 2000 she is appointed as a UNESCO “Goodwill Ambassador”.