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Prolific Italian film producer De Laurentiis dies

The Oscar-winning Dino De Laurentiis, who has died after an illness at age 91, brought more than 500 films to the big screen including King Kong and Hannibal in his career, which began when he was just 20 years old.

ROME // Italy's Oscar-winning film producer Dino De Laurentiis, who brought larger than life characters ranging from King Kong to Hannibal Lecter to the big screen, has died aged 91, his family said Thursday.

De Laurentiis, who worked with some of Italy's best-known directors such as Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini before breaking into Hollywood, died in Los Angeles after being gravely ill for several weeks.

"Cinema has lost one of its greats," said Walter Veltroni, an Italian lawmaker and former mayor of Rome who founded the Rome Film Festival.

"The name of Dino De Laurentiis is tied to the history of cinema," he said.

His nephew, Aurelio De Laurentiis, also a well-known producer, confirmed his uncle's death as he spoke to reporters in Rome ahead of his departure for the funeral in the United States.

De Laurentiis produced more than 500 films over his entire career, working with some of the biggest names in European film as well as Hollywood.

De Laurentiis started out in film aged just 20 and became one of the leading producers of Italy's post-war cinema boom and the neo-realist genre.

One of the first films he produced was "Riso Amaro" ("Bitter Rice") by Giuseppe De Santis, a 1949 classic and one of the best examples of neo-realism.

He won an Oscar in 1956 for Fellini's "La Strada" and was nominated 38 times. In 2001, he received the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award at the Oscars for demonstrating "a consistently high quality of motion picture production".

In the 1960s he built a film studio near Rome known as "Dinocitta" - after the famous "Cinecitta" - that was inaugurated by US director John Huston.

His work became increasingly in demand in Hollywood, enjoying box office succcess with "Serpico" with Al Pacino in 1973, "Three Days of the Condor" with Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway in 1975, "King Kong" in 1976 and Ridley Scott's "Hannibal" in 2001.

However not all of his movies were a success at the box office.

His 1984 science fiction film "Dune," written and directed by David Lynch, was a commercial flop and was slammed by critics.

De Laurentiis was born on August 8, 1919 in Torre Annunziata near Naples and moved to the United States in the early 1970s. His parents were pasta makers.

He married Silvana Mangano, the star of "Riso Amaro" and one of the beauties of her day. They had four children together and later divorced.

In 1981, his son died in an airplane accident in Alaska.

His nephew, Aurelio, is also a well-known producer in Italy and his granddaughter, Giada, is a US chef and host of a programme on the Food Network.

In 2003, he won a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival.