Dino de Laurentiis: A Giant Died Today

November 11, 2010

Dino de Laurentiis died today at the age of 91.

As I write this blog, my eyes are filled with tears and my heart is filled with both sadness and gratitude. It was my great experience and honor to have worked as Dino’s head of production from 1990 to 1993.

During that time, Dino and I would arrive at the office around 7 AM and be (almost) alone for about an hour before everyone else came to work. I say “almost” because Dino was usually accompanied by a lovely woman named Conchetta who worked for Dino at his home, and came to the office in the morning to make the world’s best espresso and cappuccino. Every morning, Dino, who was one of the greatest storytellers I have ever met, would regale me with stories about his 60 years of adventures in the film business. I promised Dino then that I would never talk specifically of those stories so I will only say that I sat there every day, alternately spellbound and convulsed with laughter, as Dino shared his memories with me.

Chapter 12 of Bringing Back The Old Hollywood is devoted to my years with Dino, who was an original in every sense of the word, as this excerpt illuminates:

The Real Italian Stallion

“Ray Stark and Dino de Laurentiis were the last of the old-time “mogul” producers and it was my great honor to head production for both of them.

Weirdly enough, Dino too had tragically lost a son before I started to work for him.

Two men who had lost sons hired a guy who had lost his father. Freud would have loved us

Dino de Laurentiis was and still is a living legend.

He almost single handedly put the Italian film business on the movie map in the 1940s through the 1960s, producing countless classics such as La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, and Bitter Rice with directors such as Federico Fellini. Coming to America, he also produced classic films such as Serpico, Conan The Barbarian, and Three Days of The Condor.

Dino was also a consummate entrepreneur who single-handedly invented the concept of the separate selling of foreign and U.S rights to films.  Dino’s split rights financing concept resuscitated and re-birthed the independent film industry and Dino flourished.

Diminutive in physical stature, Dino had the heart of a lion, a symbol that he quite appropriately used as his company logo. And, oh, did Dino love movies. That was something that he and Ray Stark shared: a huge passion for deal making and a love for films and the people who made them.

Dino lived, breathed, and dreamed about movies and it was the experience of a lifetime to share film adventures with him, even at that late moment in his career.”

The movie business and the world have suffered a great loss today.

Godspeed on your journey, Dino. You made an indelible mark on the business you loved so much and we will always remember you as the last great mogul. Rest well and in peace.

With love,

Stephen Simon

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Johnson November 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I’m also thinking back with fondness today. My career started in that office, and I learned so much there from Dino and you. Your words are a great tribute. Much love–kim


Stephen Simon November 12, 2010 at 6:32 am

Hey Kim—so great to hear from you…For others–Kim was my extraordinary assistant during those years with Dino–Kim–please stay in touch!…Stephen


Craig William Dayton November 12, 2010 at 4:26 am

From time to time the world is blessed by special human beings. Thank you for sharing your memories of this special human being.


Stephen Simon November 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks so much, Craig–and for your other kind email as well….so great to have a composer in our community!…Stephen


joe finn July 1, 2014 at 10:24 pm

He sounds like a tremendous spirit. You were lucky indeed but my guess is your talent and heart had more of a factor as with who entrusted you.
I have found an LA Studio Painting, Oil signed by a non-existant
Dino Torre..and I just wonder since Dino was born in Torre..if perhaps he signed his fun artwork(which is beautiful) Dino Torre…
Let me know..I am having fun just thinking I have the Master’s work in my home!


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