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Martha De Laurentiis, a producer whose credits include the film adaptations of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and Hannibal as well as NBC’s adaptation of the latter, died Sunday at her home after a battle with brain cancer. She was 67.
De Laurentiis was the wife of late producer Dino De Laurentiis, with whom she had two daughters, Carolyna De Laurentiis and Dina De Laurentiis. Dina released a statement Sunday after her mother’s death.
“My mother was both a warm, generous, optimistic soul — my father always referred to her as his ‘sunshine’ — and a fierce protector,” she said. “A treasured wife, mother and grandmother and a friend who touched so many, as well as a nurturer — and protector — of creative people on the movies and television she loved. She put family first but got up every morning passionate about building upon my father’s legacy and continuing to forge her own. Her kindness, intelligence and grace will continue to inspire us.”
Born Martha Schumacher on July 10, 1954, she grew up in Piqua, Ohio, and was crowned Ohio’s Junior Miss in 1972.
She attended Ball State University and briefly worked as a model in New York before segueing into production on films like Wolfen and The Warriors. She also worked in production accounting on projects including miniseries The Dain Curse.
She joined Dino De Laurentiis Communications as an assistant production accountant on the Milos Forman film Ragtime before moving into production on the adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter. That film also started a long production partnership with Dino.
The couple went on to build what are now the Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Martha took on production duties on De Laurentiis Entertainment Group films including other King adaptations — Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet and Maximum Overdrive — as well as Date With an Angel, Bedroom and Raw Deal, in addition to overseeing the studio.
In the 1990s, the couple launched the De Laurentiis Co., which produced films including Breakdown, U-571, Hannibal, Red Dragon and The Last Legion. They also founded the CLA Cinecitta Film Studios in Ourzazate, Morocco.
After Dino died in 2010, Martha continued on as head of the De Laurentiis Co. Through its long-standing first-look deal with Universal Pictures, she executive produced Hannibal for NBC and Gaumont and the Mads Mikkelsen starrer Arctic and was credited as an EP on the upcoming remake of Firestarter.
She also is survived by her partner of 10 years, Dr. Randy Sherman.
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