An internationally known beauty with a husky voice, Claudia Cardinale was once groomed to be Italy's answer to Brigitte Bardot, as well as a replacement for Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren, both of whom had defected to Hollywood. In 1957, Cardinale won the "most beautiful girl in Tunisia" contest and, as her prize, attended the Venice Film Festival. She later took drama lessons at Rome's Centro Sperimentale film school and, shortly thereafter, landed secondary roles in several films. Producer Franco Cristaldi began molding her career, turning her into a sex symbol, and the two later married. She was an established international star by the early '60s, although she never attained the success of Bardot, Lollobrigida, or Loren; however, she did make many notable films, working with (among others) such directors as Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Manolo Bolognini, Luigi Comencini, Sergio Leone, Blake Edwards, and Richard Brooks -- for example, Fellini cast her as herself, the object of star Marcello Mastroianni's erotic daydreams in the film 8 1/2 (1963).