by Richard Fleischer
Story conferences with Dino sometimes had their moments. We were discussing the final shot of BARABBAS with a confused Barabbas finding himself crucified and not really understanding why. Christopher Fry had written a moving, poetic final speech for him as he dies on the cross. Dino was much taken with it. Jumping to his feet behind his desk, he reenacted the scene with great passion. He flung out his arms, looked up toward heaven, and read his version of the final speech in Italian. The translator broke up in gales of laughter. "What's so funny?" I asked. "What did he say?" "Hey, God!" he translated. "What the fuck is going on?"
His blunt, almost crude manner can be disconcerting, particularly to young actresses. Over the more than thirty years I've known him I've introduced him to hundreds of actresses for casting purposes. I don't think I've seen a single interview last more than thirty seconds. They're in and out before they know it. Frequently they burst into tears once they're outside. But in the thirty seconds they were in his office, they were given a very thorough anatomical examination by his X-ray eyes. As soon as the girl was out the door he'd usually say to me, "No tits. Next!"
The abrupt treatment, however, wasn't just reserved for actresses. The actors got it, too. Not long ago I brought an actor to his office for his approval. The actor stood before Dino's desk for a couple of minutes while Dino finished a phone conversation. When he hung up he stared at the actor for several seconds. Finally the actor said, "Do you mind if I sit down, Mr. De Laurentiis?" Dino responded with unaccustomed graciousness, "Sure. Sit down," he said, motioning to a chair next to the actor. The actor sat down and Dino said to him, "What's your name?" I was impressed. Dino must really like this guy to take this much time and interest. "Fred," said the actor. "Good-bye, Fred!" said Dino.