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Movie mogul De Laurentiis dies

Producer moved from neo-realism to Hollywood blockbusters

11 November, 18:33
Movie mogul De Laurentiis dies

(ANSA) - Rome, November 11 - Dino De Laurentiis, a mogul who moved from Italian postwar masterpieces to Oscar-winning Fellini films, cult flicks Barbarella and Conan the Barbarian and Hollywood smashes like Death Wish, King Kong and the Hannibal franchise, has died in his Los Angeles home at the age of 91.

Born Agostino De Laurentiis at Torre Annunziata near Naples in 1919, the son of pasta-makers, he started in the film business in his 20s and made his mark with neorealist classic Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice) in 1948, starring Silvia Mangano, his wife from 1949 until her death in 1989.

He set up a joint company with fellow producer Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren's husband, in 1948, and made Toto' a Colori, Italy's first colour film, with comic great Toto' in 1952.

De Laurentiis produced Federico Fellini's first two Oscar-winning features, La Strada (1954) and Le Notti di Cabiria (1957), before winning a Golden Lion in Venice with La Grande Guerra (1959) starring Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman.

His flair for epic filmmaking began with Ulysses in 1954, starring Kirk Douglas and Mangano.

After Barbarella with Jane Fonda, made at his Dinocitta' studios outside Rome in 1968, he moved to LA where his credits include Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford, Al Pacino's Serpico, Flash Gordon, Dune and the Madonna vehicle Body of Evidence. His biggest success after the 1976 remake of King Kong with Jessica Lange came from the adaptations of Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lector series.

After passing on the first, Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, he produced Manhunter, Hannibal, Red Dragon and, in 2007, Hannibal Rising.

Other career highlights included, in the mid-1980s, The Bounty with Mel Gibson and The Year of the Dragon with Mickey Rourke.

De Laurentiis' knack for picking winners was shown in the Death Wish pictures starring Charles Bronson and the Conan films which made a star out of Arnold Shwarzenegger.

Other crowd-pleasers included Mandingo with boxer Ken Norton in 1975 and Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness in 1992.

In 2001, he received the Irving Thalberg Award for career achievement, joining a roll call including David O. Selznick, Samuel Goldwyn, Darrell F. Zanuck, Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli, Billy Wilder and Clint Eastwood. He said: "I've been very lucky, I've had the privilege of working with cinema's greatest masters".

In an interview later that year he said "making movies is all about instinct. Nobody told Picasso how to paint".

Among the first tributes Thursday, Italian director Gianni Amelio called De Laurentiis "the greatest Italian producer".

Amelio, known for award-winning pics like Lamerica and Cosi' Ridevano (The Way We Laughed), noted that "he steered Italian cinema towards Hollywood, with films like War and Peace (1956, starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda)".

Ricky Tognazzi, son of Italian movie great Ugo Tognazzi, said "his films are immortal".

Former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, who founded the Rome Film Festival, said: "Cinema has lost one its greats".
 
De Laurentiis is survived by his wife Martha, their two children, and three children from his first marriage with Mangano.

His daughter Raffaella and nephew Aurelio are film producers.

Aurelio said: "Have fun in the afterlife, too, Dino".

photo: receiving Thalberg Award at Oscars

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