Dino De Laurentiis


Dino De Laurentiis didn't do anything small.

The legendary Italian producer cranked out classics (La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, Serpico), big hits (Hannibal, Death Wish, Three Days of the Condor) and catastrophic misses (1976's King Kong, Orca, Flash Gordon) over a 70-year, Oscar-sanctioned career that included more than 500 films.

And now the maestro has died at the age of 91.

De Laurentiis passed away at the Beverly Hills home he shared with his third wife, Martha. No word on cause of death.

Working his way up through the ranks of the Italian film industry after serving in the Italian army during World War II, De Laurentiis' name became synonymous with high-quality foreign flicks that influenced generations of filmmakers. He had a fruitful partnership with fellow producer Carlo Ponti that resulted in a slew of critically acclaimed movies, several with Italian maestros Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini.

His collaborations with Fellini produced 1956's La Strada and 1957's Nights of Cabiria, which garnered back-to-back Academy Awards. De Laurentiis would eventually rack up more than 30 Oscar nominations and in 2001 received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the industry's highest honor for a producer. He also has received accolades from the Italian film industry, taking home a lifetime achievement award in 2003 from the Venice Film Festival.

By the late '50s, De Laurentiis began working in Hollywood, teaming up with director King Vidor for 1956's War and Peace, starring Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn. He also executive produced 1965's The Battle of the Bulge.

The '60s and the '70s saw De Laurentiis venture into big budget filmmaking with checkered results. That period included John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning, starring Richard Harris and George C. Scott; Roger Vadim's campy sci-fi cult classic Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda; 1976's ill-conceived King Kong remake with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges; 1979's disaster extravaganza Hurricane; and 1979's Queen-powered Flash Gordon.

His most critically revered films of the decade were 1973's Serpico, featuring Al Pacino in a tour-de-force performance as a New York cop on a crusade against corruption, and the Robert Redford spy thriller Three Days of the Condor.

Other notable credits included 1974's franchise-spawning Death Wish with tough-guy Charles Bronson; 1977's Jaws wannabe Orca; 1981's Ragtime, the final film of James Cagney; 1982's Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Conan the Barbarian; 1984's The Bounty, with Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier and Mel Gibson; and more recently 1997's Breakdown, starring Kurt Russell; 2000's U-571, starring Matthew McConaughey; and the two Silence of the Lambs sequels, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising.

De Laurentiis is survived by six daughters. His only son, Federico, died in a 1981 plane crash. His granddaughter Giada is a chef and star of the Food Network's Everyday Italian and Giada at Home.

"My grandfather was a true inspiration," Giada said in a statement. "He was my biggest champion in life and a constant source for wisdom and advice. I will miss him dearly."

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