Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Film producer De Laurentiis dies

Dino De Laurentiis holds the Oscars awarded to him and Carlo Ponti in 1957 (AP)
Dino De Laurentiis holds the Oscars awarded to him and Carlo Ponti in 1957 (AP)

The Oscar-winning Italian film impresario and producer Dino De Laurentiis who helped revolutionise the way movies are funded and sold, has died.

Daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis said her 91-year-old father, producer of Serpico and Barbarella, was surrounded by family when he died last night at his home in Beverly Hills.

De Laurentiis was regarded as a legend of Italian New Wave film-making. His works also included Bitter Rice and La Strada.

He was tiny, but tough and utterly tireless on set. "Such a little lion," was how his second wife, producer Martha De Laurentiis, put it when he turned 80.

Like any larger-than-life movie figure, De Laurentiis went through boom times and busts. But he always bounced back and his passion for movies never dimmed. His career spanned hundreds of films, including several Oscar winners and he worked with some of the biggest stars and best directors in the business. His credits include box-office and critical successes such as U-571, War And Peace, Ragtime, Three Days Of The Condor and Blue Velvet.

A pivotal figure in post-war Italian cinema, De Laurentiis moved to the US in the 1970s, becoming a citizen in 1986. But this son of a Neapolitan pasta maker never lost his thick Italian accent and tried to spend a month in Capri and Rome each year.

The Academy Award-winning Serpico in 1973 with Al Pacino was De Laurentiis' Hollywood debut. But by then, he already had two Italian-made Oscar-winners, Federico Fellini's La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, to his credit.

One of the first producers to understand the box-office potential of foreign audiences, he helped invent international co-productions, raising money by pre-selling distribution rights outside North America. Throughout his career, he alternated lavish, big-budget productions with less commercial films by directors such as Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch. He would package the blockbusters with art films to secure distribution for the smaller films.

He got off to a strong start in the US with Serpico, then followed it up with another success, Three Days Of The Condor, starring Robert Redford. But he was also battered by flops, including the infamous Dune, in 1984 and a truly awful King Kong sequel.

Personal tragedy also took its toll. In 1981, his son Federico was killed in a plane crash. "My father still to this day can't speak of him... He told me that every morning he wakes up and thinks of him," another daughter Veronica said nearly 20 years after Federico's death.

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