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Anita Ekberg La Dolce Vita
Anita Ekbeg in La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita actress Anita Ekberg dies

The Scandi bombshell influenced fashion, cinema and style for decades following her iconic dip in the Trevi Fountain

This morning, Anita Ekberg, the Swedish-born actress and star of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, has passed away. She was 83 years old. Her lawyer, Patrizia Ubaldi, confirmed that the actress had died in Rome on Sunday morning following an illness.

Ekberg skyrocketed to worldwide fame after her appearance in La Dolce Vita – thanks especially to one iconic scene, in which she bathed in Rome's Trevi fountain opposite actor Marcello Mastroianni.

It remains one of the most seminal moments in cinema history:

The film cemented the Scandi actress' reputation as the quintessential blonde bombshell of the 60s – and that fountain-soaked, low-cut black ballgown her place in fashion history.

In fact, La Dolce Vita itself was a product of European couture. Fellini once said that the radical silhouette of Cristóbal Balenciaga's sack dress had inspired the film.

According to co-screenwriter Brunello Rondi, "these sack dresses struck Fellini because they rendered a woman very gorgeous who could, instead, be a skeleton of squalor and solitude inside". Not unlike the darker side of the Roman scene of high fashion and fast cars, as depicted in La Dolce Vita itself.

Ekberg came to Italy after appearing in several Hollywood films, including War and Peace (1956) opposite Audrey Hepburn. The former Miss Sweden initially went to Hollywood after signing a contract with Universal Studios. But it was her La Dolce Vita role as Sylvia, the unattainable Swedish actress, that remains her most iconic. 

She became immortalised as a symbol of untouchable glamour and lush sensuality – and her gown, with its plunging sweetheart neckline, the model for all of fashion's Little Black Dresses since. Ekberg's influence is seen in the Italian bombshell vision of Dolce & GabbanaKarl Lagerfeld even devoted a photography book, The Glory of Water, to the Trevi Fountain and spearheaded Fendi's restoration project of the landmark. 

Ekberg maintained a complicated relationship with the film that brought her to fame. "I was freezing," she said about the fountain scene. "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." 

Ekberg had been in hospital for some time in the clinic San Raffaele in Rocca di Papa, a small town in Rome. Her lawyer said that a ceremony would be held in a few days' time in Rome.