Prolific film producer Dino De Laurentiis had a hand in making nearly 150 movies during a career that spanned over six decades. Here’s a look at 6 of our favorites.
Film producer and entrepreneur Dino De Laurentiis (1919 – 2010) had a hand in making nearly 150 movies over a span of nearly six decades.
His prolific career included groundbreaking Italian neorealist films, spaghetti Westerns, literary epics, B-movie camp classics, low-budget horror films, big-budget action films, and cutting-edge dramas — there was virtually no genre he shied away from. Here is a look at six of our favorites.
La Strada (1954)
Though he began his producing career in 1940, De Laurentiis’s first big international success came in 1954 as the Italian neorealist movement was beginning to morph into something more poetic and fanciful. Italian cinema became more concerned with individual experiences of the human condition than with societal ills, and Federico Fellini’s “La Strada” was on the cusp of this transition. About a simple woman who is sold to an abusive circus strongman, “La Strada” won the first Oscar ever given for the best foreign language film — along with more than 50 other international awards.
Filmed simultaneously in French and English and directed by Roger Vadim, “Barbarella” was a bomb (both at the box-office and with critics) when it was released, but has since become a cult classic. Jane Fonda — who turned down both “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Rosemary’s Baby” to star in then-husband Vadim’s movie — would later regret her role in the film. Another bit of trivia: the band Duran Duran takes its name from a character in the film.
Al Pacino’s star turn as an undercover cop unraveling as he tries to root out police corruption in this film directed by Sidney Lumet is widely considered one of his greatest roles. Based on the true-life story of NYPD detective Frank Serpico who testified against his former colleagues in 1971, “Serpico” cost a mere $1 million to film — and raked in almost 30 times that amount, making De Laurentiis one happy producer.
King Kong (1976)
This oft-maligned remake of the 1933 classic was scripted by Lorenzo Semple Jr., who’d also worked for De Laurentiis on “Three Days of the Condor” (and is now known as one half of the octogenarian film review duo “Reel Geezers”). The film received only a lukewarm critical response but reached a wide audience, making nearly $80 million for Paramount Pictures. It also launched the career of Jessica Lange, who played the part done famously by Fay Wray in the original. It was a tense, difficult shoot, with De Laurentiis at one point allegedly threatening to remove director John Guillermin from the picture (De Laurentiis had originally wanted Roman Polanski to direct).
The Dead Zone (1983)
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a Stephen King collaboration among these clips. De Laurentiis brought lots of King material to the screen, including “Firestarter” (1984), “Silver Bullet” (1985), “Cat’s Eye” (1985), “Maximum Overdrive” (1986), and “Sometimes They Come Back” (1991). No stranger to horror, De Laurentiis also produced sequels in the “Halloween” and “Amityville” franchises and financed Sam Raimi’s gory laffer “Army of Darkness” (1993). He was also the first producer to bring villain Hannibal Lecter, first played by the wonderful Brian Cox in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” (1986), to movie audiences.
Blue Velvet (1986)
Featuring an unforgettable Dennis Hopper as the psychopathic Frank Booth, this surreal noir was one of the most controversial movies of the 1980s, but it has since gone on to be named in many critics’ lists of the best films of all time. Much credit belongs to De Laurentiis for getting it to the screen. At the time, director David Lynch was coming off the disastrous “Dune” (1984), which De Laurentiis also produced. De Laurentiis would certainly have been forgiven for choosing not to work with Lynch again, especially given that the script had been making the studio rounds for half a decade and no one wanted to touch material deemed so far out of the mainstream. But because the director wasn’t a hot property — De Laurentiis was able to get him for a mere $6 million — and the cast were not big stars, the film wouldn’t be much of a financial risk. As such, De Laurentiis felt comfortable leaving Lynch to his own devices, and Lynch responded by delivering a masterpiece.