Nine isn't the first film inspired by 8½: Woody Allen got there first, with Stardust Memories. Charlotte Rampling was the legendary beauty in that movie. Nine, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), recruits a whole team. Kate Hudson! Nicole Kidman! Marion Cotillard! Sophia Loren! And Penélope Cruz, left, an actress whom Fellini, were he alive, would no doubt have loved, just as Pedro Almodóvar does
8½ is a study of, among other things, the power of a muse. In this film, the muse is Claudia Cardinale—kittenish, concupiscent, and, in the film's own words, "child, yet already a woman, authentic and radiant."
A candid Cardinale, circa 1960. An altogether different kind of beauty shows up in 8½ when Anouk Aimée appears onscreen. Aimée—who also starred in La Dolce Vita—brings her aristocratic cheekbones and astringent intelligence to the part of the director's semi-estranged wife. (Marion Cotillard steps into the part in Nine.)
Aimée, ready for her close-up, 1969.
Blond, buxom, Swedish: Anita Ekberg was the ultimate fantasy sexpot. The image of her romping in Rome's Trevi fountain in La Dolce Vita is one of cinema's most indelible. (That film also bequeathed the word paparazzi to the culture: The wild-child movie star played by Ekberg is hounded by a tabloid photographer named Paparazzo.)
Ekberg, off duty, in 1951.
Giulietta Masina's performance as a guileless circus performer in La Strada earned her the nickname "the female Chaplin." La Strada won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as did Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, where Masina played against her waifishness as a spunky, streetwise prostitute. They married in 1943. The director dedicated his last Academy Award, for Lifetime Achievement, to her, and died the day after their 50th anniversary. Masina passed away a mere five months later.
Masina in Paris, 1956.