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La Dolce Vita actress Anita Ekberg dead at 83 following 'a series of illnesses'
Became a sex symbol thanks to iconic scene showing her wading through Rome's Trevi Fountain in strapless black dress

January 11, 2015

Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born actress who is best known for her role in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, has died at the age of 83.

The moment where her character Sylvia, wades through Rome's Trevi Fountain in nothing but a strapless black dress is remembered as one the most iconic scenes ever in a movie and one which turned her into a fully-fledged sex-symbol.

Ekberg's lawyer Patrizia Ubaldi confirmed she died in Rome on Sunday morning following a series of illnesses. She had been hospitalised most recently after Christmas.

Ubaldi said that in her last days Ekberg was saddened by the illness and her advancing age.

'She had hoped to get better, something that didn't happen,' she said.

Ubaldi added that a ceremony would be held in the coming days at a Lutheran church in Rome, and that Ekberg had specified that her remains be cremated.

Born on Sept. 29, 1931, in the southern city of Malmo, Ekberg grew up with seven siblings.

In 1951 she won the Miss Sweden competition, after being recommended to enter by organisers who saw her on the street, and went to the United States to compete for the Miss Universe title.

She didn't win but became a model in Hollywood and later started taking on small acting roles.

Her role in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita - where she played a movie star - shot her to stardom. The movie was a colossal success and came to define the wild and carefree days of the early 1960s.

Hosting a Swedish radio program in 2005, Ekberg recalled shooting the scene in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. She said it was shot in February, the water in the fountain was cold and co-star Marcello Mastroianni was falling over in the fountain drunk on vodka.

'And there I was. I was freezing,' she said. 'They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn't feel my legs anymore.'

'I have seen that scene a few times. Maybe too many times. I can't stand watching it anymore, but it was beautiful at the time,' she said.

Ekberg had long lived in Italy, the country that gave her worldwide fame thanks to the iconic dip opposite Mastroianni.

Her curvaceous body and glamorous social life made her a favorite of tabloid press in the Fifties and Sixties. She married twice but never had children - a fact she came to regret later in her life. Some gossip magazines called her The Iceberg in a nod to her Scandinavian background.

But even as she became one of Sweden's most famous exports, Ekberg maintained a problematic relation with her native country. She never starred in a Swedish film and was often at odds with Swedish journalists, who criticised her for leaving the country and ridiculed her for adopting an American accent.

Ekberg remained in Italy for years, appearing in scores of movies, many forgettable. She returned in two Fellini movies: Clowns and Intervista.

Ekberg married Briton Anthony Steel in 1956, but divorced him four years later. In 1963 she married again to actor Rik van Nutter, but that marriage also failed.

In an interview with Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2006, Ekberg said her only regret in life was never having children.

'I would have liked to have a child, preferably a son,' she was quoted as saying. 'It didn't turn out that way. That's life, you just have to accept it.'

In the interview, published in connection with Ekberg's 75th birthday, she also said she wasn't afraid of death.

'I'm just angry because I won't get the chance to tell others about death, where the soul goes and if there is a life afterward,' she was quoted as saying.

'I don't know if paradise or hell exist, but I'm sure hell is more groovy.'

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