20 years with Dino De Laurentiis | A true legend


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“Hello, sir, how are you?”. That’s what I said to Dino De Laurentiis for more than 20 years, always using formal Italian (the “lei” form), from the first day I met him at a party in Beverly Hills back in 1984 (when he asked me, right out of the blue and without ever meeting me before, to translate the screenplay of “Conan the Barbarian”) up until the last meeting during a film projection a few months ago.

I’m Roberto Croci, a parliamentary interpreter and translator who has worked for Dino De Laurentiis for almost all of my professional life. Having met him at the young age of 24, I must admit that I became fond of Dino. For me, it was like growing up with my grandfather, who passed away shortly before I met De Laurentiis. Our relationship was real, paternal, and friendly. It was also brusque and harsh at times, but it was never boring. The memory I cherish most always makes me smile. Thinking of Mr. De Laurentiis brings back good memories. I’m fond of him, “I can’t help it”, he’d say.
I recall my Milanese dialect being passed off for Mandarin-Cantonese in Beijing when “Tai-Pan” was being filmed (it was the first Western production in China) and I also remember the angry outburst in front of Rupert Murdoch after a 24-hour flight. In 15 years of traveling with “Mr. D”, I’ve gone from tragicomic situations to relevant moments of film history, from Stephen King to David Lynch, from the gratuitous and commercial nudity of Madonna to the artistic nudity of Isabella Rossellini.

Everything from having realized that Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead were worth a 10,000 dollar investment; of not wanting to make Platoon, even though we had an exclusive contract with Oliver Stone; and from the short-sightedness of not wanting Bruce Springsteen as an actor to the construction of the North Carolina Film Corporation, the first film studios outside the Hollywood circuit. From the rights for the books of Thomas Harris, Hannibal Lecter’s “daddy”, to the Oscar for Lifetime Achievements, which made me tear up when I watched it on TV. That show was for him: just Mr. D. Dino De Laurentiis’ passing not only leaves a huge void in his beloved movie industry, but also coincides with the end of an era that represented, with his many films, the high point of Italian Cinema. He produced science fiction movies, avant-garde neo-realist films, blockbuster movies, super hero flicks, and Hollywood films.

More hated and feared than respected and loved, Dino produced incomparable masterpieces such as Bitter Rice, Guardie e ladri, Europa ’51, Fellini’s “La strada” and “Le notti di Cabiria”, “L’oro di Napoli”, “Barbarella”, “Serpico”, Flash Gordon, Ragtime, and King Kong, not to mention Conan the Barbarian, Dune, Manhunter, Blue Velvet, Desperate Hours, and Body of Evidence. We often discussed, spoke of, and even fought over these later films, even if Dino not only never asked for other people’s opinions, but once he made his decision, he almost always went full steam ahead and never looked back, even when his decision had to do with his own family, his past and his future, and even when he knew the risk he was taking.

It was always the usual challenge: one man up against everyone else. Right or wrong, the “Mr. D” I knew could bend but was never broken, even in the darkest moments such as the private pain for the death of a son, wife, and grandchild, for a film flop, or even for something stupid such as Naples’ loss of the Italian soccer championship. Apart from Dino’s professional episodes, awards, and career, I’d like to briefly show you Dino the man: the father, husband, and cook. Dino in slippers at home on Sunday, when he watched soccer matches and indulged in a few tasty dishes. Being a sentimental, I always appreciated the fact that I was the only one he invited to watch soccer matches broadcast live.

I’d even arrive at 4:30 a.m., with Dino waiting for me at the kitchen door. There was coffee – sometimes 2 or 3 during a match – and as much watermelon as you liked. He completely changed and became Dino the soccer fan, grandfather, and ordinary person. These were the only times I dared to use the more familiar and informal “tu” form. It was just him and me. Alone. No one disturbed us unless it was the manicurist who might come in for the usual manicure and pedicure during half-time. At the end of the game, daughters Dina and Carolina, the two joys of his life, and Martha, the woman he loved more than anything else, would show up at the end of the game. That was the moment I thanked him, got up and went home.
“Arrivederci, sir. I’ll see you at the office”.

Read it in Italian |