×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Doing it the Dino way

Vet producer says he's 'the last truly independent'

ROME – When Dino De Laurentiis plunked down $10 million from his own pocket last year for film rights to Thomas Harris’ “Silence of the Lambs” sequel, “Hannibal,” it was a move that conjured echoes of a breed of risk-taking producers now all but extinct.

“I’m probably the last truly independent producer that exists in America,” says the feisty octogenarian. “When I want to buy a book, I buy it with my own money instead of going to a studio. If you depend on a studio you become that studio’s employee. You sit around while 44 people rule on every decision then maybe you get the project, maybe you don’t.

“Doing things my way means I’ve lost millions on certain deals over the years,” continues De Laurentiis. “Clearly, not every decision is the right one. But I’ve managed to avoid being a studio slave and remain my own boss.”

Displaying the kind of drive and energy that many producers half his age struggle to muster, De Laurentiis, 81, is winding up a period of frenetic activity, working alongside his wife, producer Martha De Laurentiis. After shepherding Jonathan Mostow’s WWII submarine thriller “U-571” to U.S. B.O. success, he segued straight into production on “Hannibal,” with Ridley Scott directing.

The $80 million psychological thriller, which MGM will open domestically Feb. 14, is wrapping principal photography on schedule in Virginia and North Carolina after completing initial shooting in Florence, Italy. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and Ray Liotta.

“People often ask where my stamina comes from,” says De Laurentiis. “I tell them I still have the three C’s, cuore, cervello e coglioni. As long as you have the three C’s, you’re ageless.”

The three C’s De Laurentiis so eloquently refers to are “heart, brains and balls,” equipment that has steered him through a 60-year career embracing classic European art films, costly international spectacles and Hollywood blockbusters.

Few, if any, producers working today can match the range of films to which De Laurentiis has lent his name, from the visionary artistry of Federico Fellini’s “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria” to the campy sci-fi of “Barbarella,” from grand-scale literary adaptations like “Ragtime” to religious epics such as “The Bible,” and edgy contemporary dramas like “Serpico.”

The son of a Neapolitan pasta maker, De Laurentiis began producing at 19 after leaving home with ambitions of becoming an actor. He had his first significant hit with “Bitter Rice” in 1948.

From his early experience with Italian neorealist cinema, De Laurentiis quickly began expanding his horizons to bigger-budget fare, enlisting foreign screenwriters, directors and stars to work on international spectacles like “Barabbas,” “War and Peace” and “Waterloo.”

“These films conquered audiences all over the world and represented serious competition for Hollywood, giving the American studios cause for concern,” says the producer.

De Laurentiis exploited the appetite for these commercially potent Euro epics by strong-arming distribs into taking on his smaller pictures. Part of the “War and Peace” rights deal was Paramount’s acquisition of “La Strada” and “Cabiria,” then considered noncommercial art films. Both ended up nabbing Oscars.

Along with his impressive producing achievements, De Laurentiis is widely credited with revolutionizing the way films were bankrolled and sold, largely creating the concept of international co-productions, financing through pre-sales and split-rights deals that have become commonplace.

“The idea of independent distribution, selling rights territory by territory, is something I invented in an era when that kind of market didn’t exist,” he recalls. “It created a minor revolution when I moved to America and started doing these deals with films like ‘Serpico’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor,’ selling North American rights to Paramount but keeping international myself.”

The classic police corruption drama “Serpico” marked De Laurentiis’ auspicious entry into Hollywood, buying film rights based only on a single chapter and establishing a precedent for audacious moves that continues to characterize his approach.

“This profession of ours is something you have to love passionately,” muses De Laurentiis. “If a film isn’t made with great love it shouldn’t be made at all.

“This is not an industry of prototypes; every film has a different set of problems, a different story. That’s what makes it so exciting.

More Film

  • Jean Francois Helene Etzi

    Disney's French Chief Jean-Francois Camilleri Exiting, Helene Etzi Upped

    Jean-Francois Camilleri is leaving Disney after more than 30 years and will replaced as the head of its French operation by Helene Etzi. Sources said Camilleri’s departure was his own decision. He announced his exit on Twitter, Tuesday, and paid tribute to his team and colleagues at Disney, thanking them for the “unique adventure.” In [...]

  • dumbo Tim Burton

    Film Review: Tim Burton's 'Dumbo'

    The key image in Walt Disney’s 1941 “Dumbo” is something out of a fairy-tale daydream: Dumbo, the baby elephant with long-lashed goo-goo eyes, a cuddly grin, and ears as long and floppy as wings, flapping those ears to soar around a circus big top, flying over the crowds with a freedom as touching as it [...]

  • Guys and Dolls

    'Guys and Dolls' Getting Remade at TriStar (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Guys and Dolls,” the venerable Broadway musical, is set to return to the big screen. TriStar Pictures has purchased remake rights to the original Damon Runyon short stories about gamblers and gangsters that inspired the shows, as well as the rights to the Broadway musical with its book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows and [...]

  • Captain America: Civil War

    'Black Widow,' 'Little Women,' 'Charlie's Angels' Among Most Tracked Female Directed Projects, IMDb Says (EXCLUSIVE)

    Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” Cate Shortland’s “Black Widow,” Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman 2,” and Elizabeth Banks’s “Charlie’s Angles” are among the ten most tracked projects on IMDbPro. Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”), Chloé Zhao (“The Rider”), and Susanne Bier (“After the Wedding”) rank among the most widely followed female directors on the [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to Article 13, a controversial part of a wider directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the European Union. The new rules will have ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content