Man who brought Hollywood to Wilmington dies
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — “Hollywood East” is here primarily thanks to one man – Dino De Laurentiis. Today people are remembering De Laurentiis after he died in California.
“Dino was a force of nature,” says Fincannon & Associates Casting Director Craig Fincannon.
The day before an international film festival kicks off in Wilmington, the man credited with bringing film to the Port City dies. De Laurenttis, an Academy Award-winning producer, past away Wednesday at age 91.
“My memories are hearing him walking down the halls and his voice would boom,” says Fincannon. “He would scream ‘Marta! Marta!’ and the walls would shake because he was a small man physically, but he was the biggest presence, one of the biggest presences I ever knew in my life.”
Fincannon worked closely with the legend. “He loved food. One of the best things in the world was his films were all catered by the DDL Foodshow which was a big restaurant that he had out in New York,” remembers Fincannon. “So we ate world-class food at all of our film sets.”
De Laurentiis came to Wilmington in 1983 to film “Firestarter”, starring Drew Barrymore. He liked the area so much, he decided to stay.
“Dino De Laurentiis planted the seed that eventually evolved into what EUE/Screen Gems studios is today,” says Wilmington, NC EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar. De Laurentiis turned a warehouse used for farming equipment into a production company called DEG. It now stands as EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest motion picture facility east of California.
“I believe his true legacy is when he started doing films here, he brought master-crafts people from around the world, set designers, scenic painters, camera operators, and those people are still here today,” says Vassar. “And they’ve trained other people who are younger to do those jobs, and that’s why we have world-class talent here to be able to do films.”
De Laurentiis has produced hundreds of films, including the 1976 version of “King Kong,” “Silence of the Lambs,” and “Hannibal.” He’s responsible for Wilmington’s nickname, “Hollywood East.” And he’s likely the reason we’re hosting the Cucalorus Film Festival this weekend.
“He was a really good guy,” says Fincannon. “He was really smart and he was really crafty and you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. But Wilmington was on the right side of him for a long time. And it’s sad. It’s really sad.”
The credits will long roll on the life of Dino De Laurentiis – a legacy that will never say “the end.”