Dino De Laurentiis, one of the last great, intrepid film producers who with unmatched showmanship shepherded movies as varied as La Strada and Barbarella, has died. He was 91.
De Laurentiis oversaw seminal American films such as Serpico and Blue Velvet, and pursued blockbusters in flops like Dune and critical fiascoes such as the 1976 remake of King Kong, which nearly ended the career of a young Jessica Lange.
"Our industry is a special one," he told the Associated Press in 1998. "You deal every day with different people, creative people. Every day is different at work."
De Laurentiis died Wednesday night in Beverly Hills. The cause of death was not given.
Once described by Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein as "a master showman, the last survivor of a bygone era of swashbuckling Hollywood producers," De Laurentiis launched his long career as a producer in Italy in the 1940s. He was among the first to understand box-office potential of foreign audiences, and helped invent international co-productions, raising money by pre-selling distribution rights outside North America.
Raised outside Naples and one of six children born into the family's pastamaking business, De Laurentiis dreamed of being an actor but quickly realized his destiny was in moviemaking. He was central to the rise of Italy's film industry, which in the 1950s rose to international prominence as the Italian New Wave.
He began to move away from his base in Italy in the 1960s when the government changed the rules to mandate totally Italian productions to qualify for subsidies. The Oscar-winning Serpico, in 1973 with Al Pacino, was De Laurentiis' Hollywood debut. Charles Bronson's Death Wish, Robert Redford's Three Days of the Condor and John Wayne's last film, The Shootist, followed.
"My philosophy is very simple: To feel young, you must work as long as you can," he once said.
"My grandfather was a true inspiration. He was my biggest champion in life and a constant source for wisdom and advice. I will miss him dearly," granddaughter Giada De Laurentiis, a star chef and host on Food Network, said Thursday.
This report contains material from the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press.