Played by Marcello Mastroianni
The film’s protagonist, a renowned Italian film director in the middle of making a film he hasn’t finished writing. Guido feels guilty about cheating on his wife and abandoning the Catholic Church, and he is afraid of aging and creative exhaustion.
Played by Anouk Aimée
Guido’s wife, who loves him despite his faults. Luisa is an intelligent, charming, and beautiful woman who rejects the artificiality of Guido’s star-studded lifestyle and is fed up with his philandering and lying. She brings her friends and her sister along with her to visit Guido.
Read an in-depth analysis of Luisa.
Played by Sandra Milo
Guido’s mistress, who has a husband of her own. Sumptuously feminine yet charmingly childish, Carla never challenges or reproaches Guido, but her tacky style and idiotic personality embarrass him. Unquestioning and never demanding, she is Luisa’s foil.
Read an in-depth analysis of Carla.
Played by Mario Pisu
Guido’s friend, who is annulling his marriage so that he can marry his new fiancée, Gloria, a friend of his daughter. To Guido, Mezzabotta is a pathetic figure who embodies the director’s fears about aging.
Played by Barbara Steele
Mezzabotta’s waiflike young fiancée. An aspiring actress and a philosophy student, Gloria alternatively murmurs coquettish and pseudo-intellectual nonsense.
Played by Claudia Cardinale
An actress whom Guido considers for the leading role in his film. Although Claudia’s beauty is ideal and her presence dreamlike, Guido realizes that her perfection will not suit his film. Claudia represents youth, purity, and healing.
Played by Rossella Falk
Luisa’s best friend, who accompanies Luisa to visit Guido at the spa. Guido calls Rossella “grasshopper” because, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, she cares for and advises him. She tries to lighten the tension between Guido and Luisa. She is also a clairvoyant.
Played by Madeline LeBeau
A famous actress whom Guido has requested to play the Carla character in his film. The actress’s insistent demands to know more about the part convince Guido that she is inappropriate for the role of the easygoing Carla. Her agent’s nagging for contractual details and her own nervous presence are a constant reminder of the pervasiveness of Guido’s occupation.
Played by Jean Rougeul
Guido’s pretentious associate screenwriter. Daumier continually appears without warning, nonchalantly describing the film’s flaws. His criticism is frustrating to Guido but delightful for the audience, for it scrutinizes the direction of both Guido’s film and 8½ itself. The vain, arrogant Daumier is always eager to schmooze with the press and with beautiful actresses.
Played by Eddra (Edra) Gale
A large gypsy woman who lives on the beach during Guido’s boyhood. Guido and other boys visit Saraghina surreptitiously to hear her sing and dance the rumba. Saraghina plays a significant role in Guido’s sexual awakening as well as his straying from the Catholic Church.
Played by Guido Alberti
Guido’s producer and a constant source of nagging pressure. Pace insists that production move forward regardless of its state of confusion. His young, moronic girlfriend often appears beside him, lapping ice cream.
Played by Mario Conocchia
An old friend and creative collaborator of Guido’s who threatens to quit working on the film out of frustration with Guido. Guido sometimes finds Conocchia’s influences to be too outdated for the production of his film, which he wants to feel new and fresh. Conocchia’s presence exacerbates Guido’s fears of becoming creatively impotent himself.
Played by Cesarino Miceli Picardi
A member of the production team and the casting director. Cesarino is a good friend of Guido’s and their pleasant encounters are evidence of the comfort Guido can find in his work.
Played by Ian Dallas
A mind-reading magician and old friend of Guido’s. Maurice helps Guido find his creative inspiration and encourages him to follow it. He is Daumier’s foil.
Played by Caterina Boratto
A mysterious woman who is staying at the spa’s hotel. In real life, Boratto was an icon of beauty in Italy, and Italian viewers would recognize her as an old movie star. Her likeness also appears on a statue of the Virgin Mary in a memory sequence of Guido’s childhood.
Played by Bruno Agostini
Another member of the production team. The same age or younger than Guido, always impeccably dressed and coldly efficient, Agostini is Conocchia’s foil.
Played by Yvonne Casadei
A retired Parisian cabaret dancer who, like Saraghina and the Beautiful Woman, contributes to Guido’s first romantic experiences. Jacqueline is older than Guido’s other love interests, and she contributes to the motif of growing old.