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Scilla Gabel Was the Perfect Body Double for Sophia Loren

Scilla Gabel is a former Italian actress that has a decidedly odd claim to fame. For a few pictures during the 1950s, Scilla was the body double for fellow Italian star Sophia Loren. Sadly, Scilla has never achieved as much fame in her own right as Sophia Loren has. However, that hasn’t stopped her from developing the status of an unsung cult hero. Though she hasn’t worked in the entertainment industry since the late 1980s, people still wonder today what could’ve been if the actress had managed to break out from under Sophia’s shadow. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Scilla Gabel was the perfect body double for Sophia Loren.

Scilla Gabel Was a Body Double with a Doctorate in Law

Scilla Gabel was born in the Italian city of Rimini on January 4, 1938. The young girl was born into a family of prominence, and it was with little effort that she managed to get accepted into Oxford University upon her coming of age. At the university, the future body double studied law. However, she never ended up having to put this knowledge to much use over the course of her ensuing career. Despite this, Scilla graduated with a doctorate in the field.

While attending Oxford University, Scilla Gabel may have been studying law, but she was daydreaming about become a star. She began turning her attention towards becoming an actress. She started studying the craft of acting at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts, located in Rome. It was during this time period that Scilla was picked out from the crowd and chosen to become a body double for Sophia Loren. Sophia Loren was also an Italian actress, though the films that Scilla would double for her in wouldn’t be Italian productions. Instead, they would be the actress’s first Hollywood productions. The very first film that Scilla doubled for Sophia in was 1977’s Boy on a Dolphin, which also happened to be Sophia’s first American feature.

Perhaps regrettably, it wasn’t Scilla’s acting talents that made her stand out as the perfect choice to portray the body double of Sophia Loren. Instead, it was simply the fact that the two were the spitting image of each other from a short distance. In addition to being the same approximate build, both actresses had a very similar face. Given that Sophia Lorne was one of the biggest stars in Italy at the time, Scilla likely thought that she was hitting it big by association. However, it’s arguably that Scilla’s time working as Sophia’s body double did more harm for her career than good.

Scilla Doubled for Sophia Alongside John Wayne

Besides Boy on a Dolphin, the other feature that Scilla doubled for Sophia in was called Legend of the Lost. Legend of the Lost was also released in 1957. Boy on a Dolphin saw Sophia and Scilla gracing the screen alongside Alan Ladd, while the male star of Legend of the Lost was John Wayne. Both films proved successes that furthered the profile of international star Sophia Loren in America. However, neither film did much for the career of Scilla Gabel.

Both Sophia Loren and Scilla Gabel stand at a height of just above 5’ 8”, which puts them just about two inches over the height of the male lead that they graced the screen with in 1957’s Boy on a Dolphin. Boy on a Dolphin’s male lead was the aforementioned Alan Ladd, who was just over 5’ 6”. The height discrepancy between Alan and Sophia Loren wouldn’t be notable if it weren’t for the fact that it apparently caused a bit of bad blood between the two stars during the film’s production. Specifically, it seems that Alan was agitated about possibly being made to look short in comparison to his slightly taller costar. Jean Negulesco, who was the director of the feature, gave Alan a box to stand on during scenes where he had to appear right alongside Sophia, which helped a great deal in making the actor appear taller than he really was. However, there is at least one scene during the feature where you can quite clearly notice the actor apparently shrinking in height as he steps down from the box that has been given to him by the director onto level floor.

Despite the fact that Sophia Loren has claimed that Alan Ladd seemed upset with her being taller than him during Boy on a Dolphin’s filming, the actress has also insisted that the star tried his best to remain polite. Instead of Alan Ladd, Sophia Loren’s first American picture was originally supposed to feature Cary Grant in the role of the male lead. If this had been the case, the actor wouldn’t have needed a box in order to appear taller than the woman that he was sharing the screen with. Cary Grant was 6’ 1”, which means that he was a good deal taller than both Sophia and Alan.

Boy on a Dolphin came out in April of 1957 and solidified Sophia Loren’s status as an international star. Once again, however, it didn’t do much for body double Scilla Gabel. In fact, most agree that the Italian actress likely would be much more notable today if she had never been hired to act as Sophia’s body double at all. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Scilla Underwent Surgery to Look Less Like Sophia

After working as Sophia Loren’s body double in the more famous Italian actress’s first two American pictures, Scilla Gabel suffered somewhat of an identity crisis as she questioned how to proceed in her career. On one hand, the aspiring Italian star could continue attempting to capitalize off of how much she looked like Sophia Loren. Sophia had left Italy for Hollywood, which meant that there was a void needing to be filled in the entertainment industry of the home country. Still, the public didn’t want a simple clone of Sophia Loren. Instead, they wanted the next big thing.

Realizing that looking nearly identical to one of the biggest stars on the planet was only going to prevent her from finding major success of her own, Scilla Gabel made the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery. The aspiring actress underwent two different operations several years after appearing as Sophia Loren’s body double in the two aforementioned films. The point of each of these operations was to make the actress look less like Sophia. Though the operations managed to make Scilla look distinct enough from Sophia, only middling success in the industry followed.

Though Scilla Gabel remains best known to the public for her time as Sophia Loren’s body double, the actress was very active in the Italian film and television industries from the time immediately following her body-double work to the time of her retirement in the late 1980s.

Scilla Gabel Was No Slouch in Italy Before Retiring

Before retiring from the entertainment industry in 1988, Scilla Gabel appeared in around 50 Italian features. The most notable of these included I fuorilegge del matrimonio, as well as a pair of Western films by the names of Djurado and Bastard Go and Kill. In 1968, Scilla married a director by the name of Piero Schivazappa, and the two had a son together in 1974. The actress’s last role before her retirement came in the late 1980s via a miniseries titled Festa di Capodanno.

The story of how Scilla Gabel broke into the entertainment industry as Sophia Loren’s body double and then eventually failed to find success as a result of looking to much like the more famous Italian star remains a cautionary tale for anyone offered similar work! Scilla still remains best known for the two films in which she worked as Sophia Loren’s body double, even though the actress went on to appear in around 50 features of her own. The fact that Scilla had to go under the knife in order to get out of the shadow of Sophia Loren is tragic, especially when you consider how little the actress ended up getting in return. Still, the pair of cosmetic surgeries that Scilla underwent towards the beginning of the 1960s were perhaps worth it just for the consistent employment that the actress managed to find in the entertainment industry of her home country.

Both Sophia Loren and Scilla Gabel are still alive, though little has been heard from Scilla since her aforementioned retirement from the entertainment industry in 1988. After achieving unprecedented international superstardom thanks in no small part to the pair of pictures that Scilla doubled for her in, Sophia Loren has continued acting in both American and Italian pictures. Sophia Loren’s latest film role came in 2020, when she gave an acclaimed performance as a holocaust survivor in a drama called The Life Ahead.

Though Scilla Gabel isn’t talked about nowadays nearly as much as the more famous Italian actress that she doubled for in the 1977 pair of features Boy on a Dolphin and Legend of the Lost, she still remains a somewhat notable figure amongst those interested in obscure film trivia. Many have come to appreciate Scilla Gabel’s beauty in her own right, and it’s hard not to think of what might’ve been if the actress had been allowed to develop an identity of her own.

Though Scilla Gabel appeared in over 50 Italian features before retiring in the late 1980s, she remains best known to this day for a pair of pictures in which all she did was appear as Sophia Loren’s body double. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Sophia Loren has had body doubles for some of her most famous pictures, and that one of those body doubles got surgery afterwards because she didn’t want to look like the famous Italian actress anymore? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

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