Inside Dino De Laurentiis' Funeral

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at Dino De Laurentiis' funeral.
Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at Dino De Laurentiis' funeral.
 Reed Saxon-Pool/Getty Images

It will be a long time before Hollywood sees another Roman Catholic funeral the likes of which Dino De Laurentiis received Monday.

The legendary Italian producer, whose career encompassed everything from Fellini classics to Serpico to King Kong to Blue Velvet, was laid to rest after the ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The Oscar winner died Thursday at age 91.

The was a long list of Hollywood names filling the pews, including Bob Daly, Rob Friedman, Jeff Berg, Chris McGurk, Hawk Koch, Lou Pitt, Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner, Tom Pollock, Alan Ladd Jr., Sam Raimi, Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But most of the seats were filled by the industry's rank-and-file who'd known De Laurentiis for his movies. Many showed up in red at the request of the family. 

At the cathedral's entrance, next to a large sign-in book set on a table, stood a 2x3-foot bronze lion that De Laurentiis kept prominently near the door of his Beverly Hills mansion. When guests would leave, he'd invite them to rub the lion's testicles for good luck. Besides the top of the curved tail, it was the only shiny part of metal.

Next to the table, in the otherwise empty Spanish limestone lobby, was a man with a straw hat and knee pads, sitting on a folded-over quilt, making notes on a pad and ignoring the guests. It was a touch that could only be called Felliniesqe.

The service began with a priest asking the crowd to rise and view the coffin's arrival up the center aisle. "Dino De Laurentiis died with Christ," Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik said, "and will rise with him to new glory."

Leading the procession was his wife, Martha, and daughters Veronica, Raffaela, Carolyna and Dina. The coffin was carried by nine pallbearers. When it was placed on the altar, it was covered with a white shroud; next to it was a large display of red and white roses surrounding a photograph of the producer that served as a dramatic centerpiece.

Kostelnik noted that although Laurentiis' "spirituality was self-contained," he was born and died a Roman Catholic. His life was marked by his intense love for his family, and he was "at ease with success or failure," Kostelnik said in a reference to the producer's many hits and many misses.

The first speaker was Schwarzenegger, who, like almost every non-family member speaking at the ceremony, tried with varying degrees of success to mimic De Laurentiis' accent.

Schwarzenegger mentioned how, before they'd made Conan the Barbarian together, he'd been up for the part of Flash Gordon. He was brought to De Laurentiis' office by his agent, saw a small man seated behind a massive desk and blurted out, "Why does such a tiny guy like you need such a big desk?"

To which De Laurentiis immediately replied: "You got an accent. You can't be Flash Gordon" and ushered them out. As they left the office, Schwarzenegger's agent berated him for losing a part he'd worked months just to get an audition for in less than two minutes.

Schwarzenegger figured De Laurentiis was going to show up any minute on Monday saying, "Martha, why didn't you do a deal with the pope so we could have the funeral in the Vatican?"

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Director Jonathan Mostow read a note he'd send to the family about what working with De Laurentiis had meant to him. Then daughter Veronica spoke about a dream she had Thursday night in which a shining De Laurentiis appeared smiling and dressed in white.

"This is just the beginning," he told her in the dream. He hugged her and said ciao, and she awakened.

She ended her remarks with: "I say 'ciao' to a man who was bigger than life, who sometimes fell but always got up."

David Lynch remarked that "10 strong men on PCP did not have the energy of Dino" and said the producer did love making deals -- but he loved the films more.

"Life was like a game to Dino," the Blue Velvet writer and director said. "And he knew all the players were important to the game. He did not put off for one second what could be done today."

Daughters Carolyna and Dina, whom De Laurentiis fathered at the age of 70 and 72, respectively, spoke endearingly of a dad they realized they wouldn't know into their own old age.

When director Baz Luhrmann spoke, he recalled how he wanted to make an Alexander the Great film with De Laurentiis just to have the experience of doing the action scenes where the producer would be running next to him saying, "Faster, move forward, don't stop, keep going."

That film never happened, and De Laurentiis suggested that "we make a sexy Italian movie, Barbarella, and you take a day off from being serious."

Luhrmann was doubtful that the words "rest in peace" should apply to De Laurentiis. Rather, it should be "peace, yes; rest, no -- more speed, Dino, more."

The ceremony ended with a priest swinging an incense holder and creating a massive cloud of smoke around the coffin. It was the most cinematic moment of the funeral.

"Until we meet Christ, let us part in peace," Kostelnik said, and while a male singer sang "O Sole Mio" to a mandolin accompaniment, De Laurentiis' coffin was carried out of the church. The man with the straw hat sat on the floor by the table as the crowd passed by. 

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