Faye Dunaway would arrive at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport in disguise. Sometimes she wore a brunette wig and sunglasses; other times, she hid behind a coat and oversize hat. “I was basically doing what I hated with a man that I loved,” she confessed of hiding her two-year secret affair with Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. “We were like spies in love, always avoiding the paparazzi.”

The actress, who rose to fame playing an outlaw in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, confessed that their whirlwind, globe-hopping romance was more than a fling. “I was deeply in love with him,” said Faye, who dreamed of marriage and children with her continental lover, who was 17 years her senior. “He was a man like no one I’d ever met before, and he made me feel deeply protected.”

The pair met on the Venetian set of their 1968 tearjerker A Place for Lovers. In it, Faye plays a terminally ill fashion designer who embarks on an affair with an Italian race car driver — and struggles with whether to tell him that her time is running out. “When we first met, I was a bit starstruck,” Faye confessed. “He was gorgeous.”

Marcello was also married to Flora Carabella, the mother of his daughter Barbara, and Faye had a rule against sleeping with her leading men. Though she shared the screen with Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman and many more of the era’s most desirable stars, she always kept their relationships platonic. “You know it’s going to ruin the performance and ruin the movie, so you don’t do that,” she said.

Faye Dunaway
Christophe Karaba/EPA/Shutterstock

Marcello was different. On the set of A Place for Lovers, their bedroom scenes became so heated that director Vittorio De Sica threw water at them to break up their clinches. After filming wrapped, Faye followed Marcello to Rome. 

“There are days when I look back on those years with Marcello and I have moments of genuine regret,” she admitted. 

For two years, Faye waited for Marcello to leave his wife, but the actor had other ideas. “He thought we’d be like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, a love kept secret for a lifetime, belonging only to the two of us,” said Faye.

Reality came rushing in when Faye saw Marcello and his wife being affectionate at a Christmas party in 1969 and realized he would never leave her. She ended the affair a little while later.

“All my life, I’ve been the kind of person who could shatter easily,” Faye said. “I’ve never been able to bear being hurt, so rather than feel any kind of emotional pain, I’ve usually snipped off that kind of relationship.”

Marcello, who never divorced Flora, went on to other affairs and even had a daughter with actress Catherine Deneuve, but he never forgot Faye. “She was the woman I loved the most. I will always regret losing her,” he said.

He also admitted that it had been humbling to be left by Faye and, later, Catherine. “They said I was playing a singles game, making my own rules,” Marcello said. “[I] would never alter my life to fit it into theirs. I guess it was mostly true.”

Today, Faye is the mother of a grown son, Liam, who remains the most important man in her life. She still calls Marcello her greatest romantic love. “There is a part of me who thinks that if we were married, maybe we would still be married,” she said before his 1996 death. “It was one of our fantasies that we [would] grow old together.”