Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dino De Laurentiis hires Richard Fleischer

A Memoir by Richard Fleischer

Just at the moment when things had reached their nadir between Zanuck and me, right after we'd returned to Paris to finish THE BIG GAMBLE, Providence descended from heaven and kissed me on the brow. Dino De Laurentiis showed up and offered me a job.
A couple of years earlier Dino had pursued me in Hollywood to direct WAR AND PEACE, but it didn't work out. Now here he was in Paris offering me a huge biblical epic based on Nobel Prize winner Par F. Lagerkvist's novel BARABBAS. Christopher Fry would write the screenplay, and it would be shot in Rome. As soon as I finished my chores on THE BIG GAMBLE, Dino wanted me to report for work immediately on BARABBAS. I could already feel the warm Italian sun melting the Zanuck ice from my bones. Even if I had loved Darryl, I would have gladly jilted him for this assignment.
My family was something less than ecstatic about having to leave Paris. It hadn't been easy for them to become adjusted to Parisian sophistication after the barbecue and jeans life-style of California. Uprooted from their native home and friends, they had to put down new roots in foreign soil. There were plenty of tears.
Now, a year later, there were more tears. Why did they have to leave Paris? They loved Paris. It was their home. Their friends were here. Wait, I told them. Rome is beautiful, too. You'll see, you'll love it. Honest.
There was a World War I song that went, "How're you gonna keep them down on a farm after they've seen Paree?" We weren't exactly down on the farm, but we had seen Paree - and Rome, at first glance, was something of a letdown. I mentioned this to my Roman assistant, a jolly, chubby, hyperthyroidal young intellectual with the wonderful name of Guido Guiderini. "Ah, but you don't understand!" he effused, his arms making graceful circles in the air. "Paris is a common whore! She lies there naked on the bed, her legs spread apart. Nothing is hidden. A vulgar display of the obvious. But Rome! Rome is a mysterious seductress. Her beauties, her charms are hidden. Slowly, tantalizingly, she reveals them to you until you are overwhelmed, intoxicated by her." Guido may have been a bit operatic, but he was right. When we left Rome four years later, everyone was crying again.

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