Fellini’s muse and Italian film icon Sandra Milo dies at 90

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Sandra Milo, an icon of Italian cinema who played a key role in Federico Fellini’s “8½” and later became his muse, died Monday, her family said. She was 90.

Milo, noted for her distinctive high-pitched voice, died in her sleep at home in Rome, surrounded by her family and beloved dogs Jim and Lady, according to a statement from the family carried by state-run RAI television.

“Ciao Diva!” the Venice Biennale posted on social media, calling Milo an “unforgettable and versatile” actor both in comedy and drama.

Born Elena Salvatrice Greco, Milo had her break in Roberto Rossellini’s 1959 film “Il generale Della Rovere (General Della Rovere).” She went onto star with some of the greats of Italy’s post-war film industry, including Alberto Sordi and Marcello Mastroianni, with whom she appeared in the Oscar-winning “8½.”

Milo played Carla, the mistress to Mastroianni’s film director Guido.

Fellini later cast her alongside his own wife in the 1965 film “Juliet of the Spirits.” Two decades later Milo recounted their 17-year secret love affair in her indirectly autobiographical book, “Caro Federico.”

Milo became a fixture on Italian television as a talk show host, and in 1990 was the victim of an on-air prank that went down in Italian television history as a tasteless precursor to reality TV’s “Punk’d.”

While Milo was hosting a talk show on RAI, a prankster called in and told her that her son, Ciro, had just been hospitalized after a serious car accident. Believing the caller, a terrified Milo fled the studio wailing “Ciro, Ciro!” only to subsequently learn that her son was fine and that she had been tricked.

She is survived by Ciro and her two other children, according to the statement carried by RAI.