DE LAURENTIIS, Dino
Producer. Nationality: Italian. Born: Torre Annunciata, 8 August 1919. Education: Attended Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Rome. Military Service: During World War II. Family: Married 1) the actress Silvana Mangano, 1949 (deceased), one son (deceased), three daughters; 2) the producer Martha Schumacher. Career: Worked as extra, actor, propman, unit manager, and assistant director while still in school; 1939—produced his first film, Troppo tardi t'ho conosciuta; early 1950s—co-founded Ponti-De Laurentiis production company with Carlo Ponti: dissolved, 1957; built Dinocittà studio in early 1960s: sold to Italian government, early 1970s; resettled in the United States with Embassy Pictures, and, in 1985, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (resigned as chairman of the board, 1988). Awards: Academy Award, for La strada , 1954, and Nights of Cabiria , 1956. Address: De Laurentiis Communications, 8670 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Producer:
Troppo tardi t'ho conosciuta (Caraccioli)
L'amore canta (Poggioli)
Margherita fra i tre (Perilli); Malombra (Soldati)
La donna della montagne (Castellani)
Il miserie del Signor Travet (Soldati); Il bandito (Lattuada)
La figlia del capitano (Camerini); Il passatore (Coletta)
Riso amaro ( Bitter Rice ) (de Santis); Molti sogni per le strade ( Women Trouble ) (Camerini)
Il lupo della Sila ( Lure of the Sila ) (Coletti)
Il brigante Mussolini (Camerini); Napoli milionaria (de Filippo); Adamo e Eva (Mattòli)
Guardie e ladri ( Cops and Robbers ) (Steno and Monicelli); Botta e risposta (Soldati); Romanticismo (Fracassi); Sensualità (Fracassi); Totò a colori ( Totò in Color ) (Steno)
Anna (Lattuada) (co); Europa '51 (Rossellini); I tre corsari (Soldati); La tratta delle bianche ( Girls Marked Danger ) (Comencini); Jolanda, la figlia del Corsaro Nero (Soldati)
Anni facili ( Easy Years ) (Zampa); Dov'è la libertà? (Rossellini); La Lupa ( The She-Wolf ) (Lattuada)
Ulisse ( Ulysses ) (Camerini); La strada (Fellini); La romana ( Woman of Rome ) (Zampa)
Il coraggio (Paolella); Mambo (Rossen); L'oro di Napoli ( Gold of Naples ) (De Sica); La donna del fiume (Soldati); La bella mugnaia ( The Miller's Beautiful Wife ) (Camerini)
Guendalina (Lattuada); La banda degli honesti (Mastrocinque); Totò, Peppino, e . . . la malafemmina (Mastrocinque); War and Peace (K. Vidor); La notti di Cabiria ( Nights of Cabiria ; Cabiria ) (Fellini)
Barrage contre le Pacifique ( La diga sul Pacifico ; The Sea Wall ; This Angry Age ) (Clément); La tempesta ( Tempest ) (Lattuada); Fortunella (de Filippo)
La grande guerra ( The Great War ) (Monicelli)
Giovanna e le altre ( Five Branded Women ) (Ritt); Crimen ( . . . and Suddenly It's Murder ) (Camerini); Tutti a casa ( Everybody Go Home! ) (Comencini); Il gobbo ( The Hunchback of Rome ) (Lizzani)
I due nemici ( The Best of Enemies ) (Hamilton); Il giudizia universale ( The Last Judgment ) (De Sica); Barabba ( Barabbas ) (Fleischer); Io amo, tu ami ( I Love, You Love ) (Blasetti)
Il boom (De Sica); Il diavolo ( To Bed or Not to Bed ) (Polidoro)
La Bibbia ( The Bible . . . in the Beginning ) (Huston)
Se tutte le donne del mondo ( Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die ) (Levin and Maiuri)
Lo straniero ( The Stranger ) (Visconti); Le streghe ( The Witches ) (Visconti and others)
La sbarco di Anzio ( Anzio ; The Battle for Anzio ) (Coletti and Dmytryk); Barbarella (Vadim); Diabolik ( Danger: Diabolik ) (Bava); Fraulein Doktor (Lattuada); Banditi a Milano ( The Violent Four ) (Lizzani); Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli)
Una breve stagione ( A Brief Season ) (Castellani)
Waterloo (Bondarchuk); La spina dorsale del diavolo (Kennedy)
The Deserter (Kennedy)
Joe Valachi—i segreti di Cosa Nostra ( The Valachi Papers ) (Kennedy)
The Stone Killer (Winner); Serpico (Lumet)
Casanova (Fellini); Drum (Carter); King Kong (Guillermin); Ansikte mot ansikte ( Face to Face ) (Bergman); Buffalo Bill and the Indians (Altman); The Shootist (Siegel)
Das Schlangenei ( The Serpent's Egg ) (Bergman)
Hurricane (Troell); Flash Gordon (Hodges)
Ragtime (Forman); Conan the Barbarian (Milius)
Conan the Destroyer (Fleischer); Firestarter (Lester)
Year of the Dragon (Cimino); Red Sonja (Fleischer); Marie (Donaldson); Cat's Eye (Teague); Silver Bullet (Attias)
Desperate Hours (Cimino)
Sometimes They Come Back (McLoughlin—for TV)
Once upon a Crime ( Criminals ; Over My Dead Body ; Troublemakers ; Returning Napoleon ) (Levy)
Body of Evidence (Edel)
Solomon & Sheba (Young—for TV); Assassins (Donner) (exec); Slave of Dreams (Young—for TV)
Films as Executive Producer:
Un giorno in pretura ( A Day in Court ) (Steno) (co)
Maciste contre il vampiro ( Goliath and the Vampire ) (Gentilomo and Corbucci)
Death Wish (Winner)
Three Days of the Condor (Pollack)
La orca ( Orca ) (E. Visconti); The White Buffalo (Lee Thompson)
The Brink's Job (Friedkin); King of the Gypsies (Pierson)
The Dead Zone (Cronenberg)
The Bounty (Donaldson)
Tai Pan (Duke); Crimes of the Heart (Beresford); Blue Velvet (Lynch); Maximum Overdrive (Stephen King)
By DE LAURENTIIS: articles—
Bianco e Nero (Rome), no. 7–8, 1961.
Interview (New York), January 1973.
Film Français (Paris), 11 June 1976.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), December/January 1977.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), January 1977.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 6 January 1977.
Film Comment (New York), January/February 1977.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 15 May 1980.
Stills (London), June/July 1984.
On DE LAURENTIIS: articles—
Films and Filming (London), January 1957.
Film Français (Paris), 15 June 1984.
National Film Theatre Booklet (London), July 1984.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1984.
Film Français (Paris), 28 December 1984.
Cinema Papers (Melbourne), March 1987.
Time , 11 January 1988.
Variety (New York), 24 February 1988.
Variety (New York), 3 February 1992.
Astronomy , November 1994.
Variety (New York), 10 May 1999.
* * *
One of the most colorful, prolific, and successful producers in the contemporary motion picture business, Dino De Laurentiis has proven his entrepreneurial skills time and again, growing from an independent Italian producer into an international conglomerate. His product, from low-budget neorealist works to multimillion dollar spectacles, has always stressed entertainment value, and no matter what the era, he has managed to overcome the exigencies of the fickle motion picture industry to produce consistently crowd-pleasing fare. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the epic; in the 1970s and 1980s a flow of Charles Bronson and Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies, and a series of Stephen King horror shows. De Laurentiis has been a popular media figure with his flamboyant personality and high profile; very much a mogul in the tradition of Samuel Goldwyn, he maintains a strong degree of production value with talented directors, actors, writers, and technicians. What other producer, for example, has produced films by Fellini, Bergman, Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti, Vidor, Huston, Lumet, Forman, Altman, Friedkin, Pollack, Cimino, and Cronenberg, to name but a few? Their films bear the De Laurentiis imprimatur; at the same time, he has shown his fondness for such impersonal, reliable directorial technicians as Richard Fleischer, John Guillermin, and Michael Winner on many of his bread-andbutter pictures.
De Laurentiis attended the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome at the age of 16, then gained practical filmmaking experience in the Italian film industry as an actor, prop man, assistant director, and unit manager. By the age of 20, he had produced his first major film, L'amore canta , then organized Realcine in Turin in order to arrange financing for his productions. World War II disrupted his progress, and Realcine was destroyed during the war. De Laurentiis was at the heart of the postwar neorealism movement in Italy, helping to revitalize the Italian cinema. He scored his first international success with Giuseppe de Santis's Bitter Rice , a stark drama of the women who work the rice fields of the Po Valley, starring Silvana Mangano (whom De Laurentiis married shortly thereafter). The producer solidified his status when he formed the Ponti-De Laurentiis Production Company with Carlo Ponti in the early 1950s.
Together, De Laurentiis and Ponti produced films by Roberto Rossellini ( Europa '51 ), Vittorio De Sica ( Gold of Naples ), and Federico Fellini ( La strada ). Europa '51 , starring Rossellini's wife Ingrid Bergman, was a bleak disappointment, typical of the Rossellini-Bergman films, but it did give the producers the prestige of a former Hollywood star. They had much better fortune with De Sica and Fellini— Gold of Naples is an exceptional anthology of four vignettes dealing with Neapolitan life, while La strada has become a classic of world cinema, a beautiful and affecting drama of a loutish circus performer and the young woman he abuses, brilliantly directed by Fellini and acted by Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Massina. La strada won De Laurentiis and Ponti an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and worldwide recognition as the preeminent producers in Italy.
De Laurentiis realized the box-office appeal of epics during the 1950s, when small-screen television began stealing motion picture audiences. Another advantage was attracting big-name stars to increase the size of their potential audience, and with this in mind Ponti and De Laurentiis produced two gargantuan spectacles, Mario Camerini's Ulysses , starring Kirk Douglas and Silvana Mangano, and King Vidor's War and Peace with Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn. Ulysses , indirectly based on Homer's saga of ancient Greece, sold on the strength of Douglas's marquee value; it is a tedious, talky picture. War and Peace was more successful, with the Tolstoy novel condensed into two hours and 30 minutes, marked by vivid imagery of the Napoleonic Wars, and King Vidor's eye for character and landscape.
De Laurentiis and Ponti went their separate ways after these films, and De Laurentiis created a new independent production company. Nights of Cabiria , a Fellini film about a wistful prostitute (played by Massina), won De Laurentiis another Best Foreign Film Oscar, and later served as the basis for the Broadway musical and film Sweet Charity. Although he still produced Italian movies such as Cabiria and Mario Monicelli's The Great War , a comedy-drama set during World War I, De Laurentiis continued with a policy of U.S.-Italo co-productions, frequently releasing in America through Paramount, filming in Italy with English-speaking stars and directors. In the early 1960s, he constructed a vast studio complex outside Rome and used it as a base of operations for production, as well as leasing it to other independents. In addition to such steamy dramas as Martin Ritt's Five Branded Women and René Clément's This Angry Age , De Laurentiis made money from epics such as Richard Fleischer's Barabbas and particularly from The Bible . . . in the Beginning , directed by John Huston with an all-star cast reverently recreating the great tales of the Old Testament. De Laurentiis had another prestigious blockbuster with Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. For once the Shakespeare tragedy was correctly cast with teenagers in the leads, and the picture struck a chord with the rebellious young generation of the late 1960s.
De Laurentiis moved to America in the early 1970s, after Italy imposed tight tax restrictions on the film industry. Since then his career has expanded rapidly. He continued to support individualistic filmmakers such as Fellini ( Casanova ) and Ingmar Bergman ( Face to Face , The Serpent's Egg ), and experienced noble failures with Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians and William Friedkin's The Brink's Job , but began to rely more and more on sure-fire mass appeal material. A series of Charles Bronson action films— The Valachi Papers , The Stone Killer , and Death Wish —were huge moneymakers, and employed a graphic, streetwise realism. Although De Laurentiis still made important films such as Sidney Lumet's Serpico . (the true story of New York police corruption), Sydney Pollack's CIA thriller Three Days of the Condor, Don Siegel's The Shootist , (a nostalgic Western and John Wayne's last movie), and Milos Forman's impressive turn-of-the-century epic Ragtime , he found it profitable to exploit more popular genres.
For a time in the 1970s, it seemed as though the producer was dedicated to such overwrought kitsch as Mandingo , Orca , and Hurricane. Of these only Mandingo was a resounding box-office hit, spawning a sequel, Drum. While he had enjoyed a science-fiction success with Roger Vadim's sexy Barbarella , De Laurentiis's other sci-fi films, Flash Gordon and David Lynch's $50 million Dune did not perform well. Much stronger were the Conan films; Robert E. Howard's classic sword and sorcery adventures were faithfully transmitted to the screen with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role. John Milius directed Conan the Barbarian; Richard Fleischer handled the inferior sequel Conan the Destroyer , as well as a related adventure, Red Sonja. After a well-mounted remake of The Bounty with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh under Roger Donaldson's direction, De Laurentiis opened new studios in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1985 he acquired Embassy Pictures and formed De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, a new distribution and production company, making many of its films at the North Carolina studios. Again, there was a familiar pattern to the De Laurentiis product, with prestigious films ( Crimes of the Heart ), epics ( Tai-Pan ), action movies ( Desperate Hours ), and occasionally the offbeat ( Blue Velvet ). Horror pictures have been the mainstay of De Laurentiis's output in recent years, especially the successful Stephen King movies— The Dead Zone , Firestarter , Cat's Eye , Silver Bullet , and Maximum Overdrive. De Laurentiis has seemingly beat the system by surviving as an independent producer for 50 years, capping his career with a thriving distribution company. It is no surprise. For 50 years, De Laurentiis has been making movies, not just deals, and his prodigious body of work is rare indeed in today's film industry. Few producers possess his sense of daring—he was the only producer to hire Michael Cimino, for example, after the Heaven's Gate debacle, and their film, Year of the Dragon , helped Cimino back on his feet—or his sense of showmanship, whether promoting the sublime or the banal.
—John A. Gallagher