Famed Italian Film Producer Dino De Laurentiis Dies at 91

Son of pasta-making family turned his attention to producing films.

Nov. 11, 2010— -- Famed Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis has died in Los Angeles, ending a movie career that spanned seven decades. He was 91.

Many of his hundreds of movies were big productions. Some were big spectacles, such as the remake of "King Kong" in 1976 and "Conan the Barbarian" in 1982, starring a pre-gubernatorial Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some had big villains, including Anthony Hopkins, who had the lead role in the chilling 2001 film "Hannibal." In the course of 70 years, many of his films were wildly successful, including "Serpico," "Three Days of the Condor" and "Blue Velvet."

The producer was born Agostino de Laurentiis in a town near Naples, Italy, Aug. 8, 1919, and grew up selling pasta made by his father. He worked on some the most notable Italian films that emerged as an artistic force after World War II.

In collaboration with Frederico Fellini, De Laurentiis produced "La Strada," starring Anthony Quinn and winning an Oscar in 1957. After he and business partner Carlo Ponti produced several Italian films together, he struck out on his own in the 1960s building a studio that eventually collapsed financially.

DeLaurentiis moved to the United States in the 1970s and began to churn out films from his studio in North Carolina. They included "Death Wish," "The Shootist" and "Ragtime."

His themes were eclectic, ranging from Ingmar Bergman's "The Serpent's Egg" to the science fiction flick, "Flash Gordon," to the horror film, "Halloween II."

De Laurentiis Had Flops, Too

He also had some flops. "King of the Gypsies" and "Hurricane" are two that were panned by critics. Despite the popularity of his films, De Laurentiis struggled with failing box office numbers and soaring production expenses. He opened and closed several studios in rapid succession, trying to find financing for his film projects.

But he never quit. De Laurentiis continued to be a prolific producer through the turn of the century with six movies in the seven years between 2000 and 2007.

He was presented with the Irving Thalberg Award in 2001 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which is given to "a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production."