April 2, 2012

Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Honored at SCA

The Legendary Producers Install an Endowed Professorship

Everyone who met larger-than-life producer Dino De Laurentiis has a story to tell and, on April 1st, the USC School of Cinematic Arts hosted a panel including producer and widow Martha De Laurentiis, producer and daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis, director Michael Mann, director Jonathan Mostow and former Governor of California and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to honor the producing couple, and to share stories from Dino’s life.

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,
who was a long-time collaborator of Dino's, and Martha De Laurentiis

The evening was also a celebration of the Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Endowed Professorship in which SCA’s Mary Sweeney was installed. Martha De Laurentiis shared her wish that Dino’s legacy be continued at SCA, particularly his desire to work with young people.

“The thrust of what Dino always wanted to say was to embrace youth,” said Martha De Laurentiis. “Embrace the young blood. Take chances on creative minds. It’s so appropriate with what we are doing with USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. It’s so wonderful that Dino’s legacy will go on for centuries.”

A Tribute to Dino De Laurentiis was a weekend long celebration of his long career including screenings of Army of Darkness, Manhunter, Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy, Blue Velvet and the panel discussion. To begin the closing event, SCA Professor Mary Sweeney was installed as the Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Endowed Professor.

“We are here to celebrate one of the truly great cinematic partnerships, Dino and Martha De Laurentiis,” said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley to open the evening. “Dino and Martha’s impact on the global film landscape was profound and transformative. We are honored to make his name and legacy a permanent part of our School.”

Dino De Laurentiis’ career spanned over seven decades and over six hundred movies. He built film studios on five continents and worked with legendary directors Federico Fellini,  Mann, John Millius and Ridley Scott. His work bolstered the careers of actors Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda.

Raffaella De Laurentiis shared a story of Dino’s early career when he was trying to break into the Italian film industry as an actor. He was told that he had landed a role but he needed black shoes on the day of filming.

Martha De Laurentiis with her plaque for the Endowed

“At that point in his career, Dino didn’t own black shoes,” Raffaella De Laurentiis said. “He just had the white and yellow tennis shoes. He went to a shoe store and asked the owner if he would loan him shoes. He showed him the telegram with the [job] offer. He could sell anything if he put his heart into it. Dino told the man, ‘I will pay you back when I get the job’ and he did. Years later, the man who owned the shoe shop went bankrupt and found my father. Dino gave him a job at the studio in the shoe department where he lived and worked until the end of his days.”

“Dino had faith in me,” said Schwarzenegger. “We did Conan I and Conan II which got my career started in a national way. There were no questions. What Dino wanted me to do, that’s what I did. It was amazing how he could mix ambition and kindness. He was truly one-of-a-kind.”

Dino De Laurentiis passed away at the age of 91 at his home in Beverly Hills.