by Richard Fleischer
Dino has always been a master at business dealings and negotiations, although they always seem to be conducted in a free-wheeling, emotional, and intuitive manner. He was certainly a charter member of the club that made offers you couldn't refuse. If Dino wanted someone, or something, he would get what he wanted by offering a deal that was too attractive to turn down. Reality would set in later. There was a popular saying that Dino considered a signed, sealed, and delivered contract merely the start of serious negotiations.
Whatever his faults, flaws, and deficiencies, Dino was and is, above all else, a consummate salesman and an unsurpassed showman. And a manipulator. I got my first taste of all three when we started casting BARABBAS.
The name of one of France's leading, most respected actresses, Jeanne Moreau, came up as a possibility to play an important female role. She was not only a fine actress but a star as well. I was highly enthusiastic and so was Dino. "We bring her to Rome," he said. "You make screen tests. Not for acting. For clothes, for makeup, for hair. And we invite newspapers. They love Moreau. They go crazy to see her. We get big publicity. It no cost nothing!"
He was right. We brought Moreau to the De Laurentiis Studio and the press went mad. There were about thirty reporters and photographers on the stage where I was to make the tests, milling around, crowding in on her, elbowing each other out of the way. It was almost impossible for me to reach her to introduce myself. Dino stood by, watching with enormous satisfaction. After almost an hour I got my assistant directors to clear the mob back, and I proceeded with the tests. She was wonderful. Even though the tests were purely mechanical, she became the character in the script the moment the camera turned. Even under those conditions her spiritual beauty shone through. Obviously she was ideal for the part. I was thrilled with the idea of working with this great actress.
Moreau returned to her home in St. Paul de Vence, in France, and we reaped the benefit of her brief visit. Front-page photo coverage, long articles about the picture and the genius of Dino De Laurentiis for managing this casting coup.
A week later Dino called me into his office. "We no use Moreau!" he announced.
"I got better idea. Much better."
"We use Silvana!"
Click! The whole thing suddenly fell into place. Silvana Mangano, a great Italian beauty and movie star, was Dino's wife. I could never prove it, but I just can't imagine that the idea of using Silvana for that part had not already been set in his mind. He just couldn't resist the publicity opportunity that had presented itself. I had no qualms at all about using Silvana in the film. She was ideal, too. If she'd been suggested first I wouldn't have hesitated a moment in saying yes. But what rankled was the realization that we'd all been sold, exploited, and manipulated.