The death of Dino De Laurentiis reminds me of many things, but my favorite has got to be this story about his attempt to collaborate on a film version of The Bible with the great Robert Bresson. The story comes via Bernardo Bertolucci (who himself knows a thing or two about domineering producers), who relates it in the Cinematheque Ontario’s monograph on Bresson, and concerns an encounter in the mid-60s. It’s actually more of a Bresson story than a De Laurentiis story (and it may also, for all I know, be apocryphal), but I still have to share it:
"Mauro Bolognini invited me to a dinner in honor of Robert Bresson who had been in Rome for the past few weeks preparing an episode of The Bible, a movie produced by Dino De Laurentiis with various directors. Bresson had chosen Noah’s Ark. Before I was introduced, Bolognini told me that Bresson was in a rather bad mood and briefly explained why.
"That morning, while Bresson was lecturing, Dino De Laurentiis had gone to the studio and witnessed huge cages containing wild animals arriving in pairs: two lions, male and female, two giraffes, male and female, two hippos, male and female, etc. A few hours later, Dino told Bresson that he was excited to be the only producer on earth able to bring the elevated Maestro down to earth, to produce a film with real production values…
“'On ne verra que leur traces sur le sable (One will see only their footprints in the sand),' Bresson whispered to Dino. An hour later he was fired."