A runner-up in the 1951 Miss Universe pageant, Anita Ekberg was offered a “starlet’s contract” by Universal Pictures, despite speaking very little English. She was given small roles in a handful of films including Blood Alley, Hollywood or Bust and the Martin & Lewis comedy Artists and Models. However, Anita was the darling of the gossip columns. Much was written about her romantic trysts with Frank Sinatra, Rod Taylor, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. An incident involving Anita’s dress popping open in the lobby of London’s Berkeley Hotel was a publicity stunt prearranged by a photographer.
In 1960, Anita starred in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the role for which she is best known, She cavorted in Rome’s Trevi Fountain with actor Marcello Mastroianni in an iconic scene. In 1962, she lost the role of “Honey Rider” in the first James Bond film Dr. No to Ursula Andress. She would co-star with Andress the next year in 4 for Texas. Anita was recruited by Fellini two more times in The Clowns and Intervista.
Anita was known to be very outspoken, often telling reporters which famous people she disliked. In a 1999 New York Times interview, Anita bragged that it was Fellini who owed his success to her, rather than vice versa.
In 2011, it was reported that 80-year-old Anita was having financial difficulty after a fire wiped out her home and robbery resulted in the loss of jewelry and furniture. She humbly (or arrogantly) approached the Fellini Foundation for financial support.
Anita died at 83 after a long illness. Despite being a long-time resident of Italy, she was cremated and her remains were returned to her native Sweden.