One of the greatest and most prolific producers in film history, Dino De Laurentiis was announced dead today at the age of 91.
Having been worked in the industry for 70 years, he produced over 160 films, from 1941 until 2007. Over time his name came to be associated with grandiose spectacles and seeing it in the opening credits for a movie meant you’re in for some good old entertainment.
Born in the province of Naples, De Laurentiis’ first job ever was selling his family’s pasta. But after serving in the Italian army in the second world war, he turned to producing, and quickly made a name for himself, with 1949’s classic “Bitter Rice” by Giuseppe De Santis. He continued his upwards rise with neo-realist hits made together with Carlo Ponti, including Fellini’s masterpieces “La Strada” (1954) and “Nights of Cabiria” (1957).
Soon after that De Laurentiis started working solo, releasing a number of movies that were both commercial and very enjoyable to watch, including “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die” and “Barbarella” in 1968. Around this time the big producer left his native Italy, whose film business was no longer as blooming as it used to be, and relocated to were the industry was still growing far and wide – the US. He set up a studio in North Carolina, and went on to produce some of the unforgettable classics and cult flicks including Sidney Lumet’s “Serpico” (1973), Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor, Ingmar Bergman’s “The Serpent’s Egg” (1977) and the movie that propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom – “Conan the Barbarian” (1982). He also worked on David Lynch’s “Dune” and “Blue Velvet,” as well as Milos Forman’s “Ragtime” – all those movies showed De Laurentiis as a producer who doesn’t only go for potential commercial hits, but is up for more risqué ventures, featuring some very strong talent.
For a while, though, the producer dabbled in sequels and remakes – costly, but often bordering on tasteless, such as “King Kong” and “King Kong Lives,” “Halloween II” and “Flash Gordon” remake.
The last 20 years saw Di Laurentiis produce four screen adaptations of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal novels – from “Manhunter” to “Hannibal Rising” (“Silence of Lambs” excluded). He also produced one of the best trash horror comedies of all time – “Army of Darkness” (1992). Di Laurentiis last project was “Virgin Territory” released in 2007.
As producer De Laurentiis was honored by the Academy twice – with an Oscar for “La Strada” in 1954 and with Irving G. Thalberg Memorial award in 2001.