Star Of His Own Dubious Epic

Dino's bombs keep clobbering investors, but he just won't quit

With cinematic flourish, Dino De Laurentiis would jump up from his plate of spaghetti at the boardroom table, wave his cook aside and bolt into the company's kitchen. Nobody, he told his guests, could make cappuccino like the maestro himself! As he spoke, Hollywood's flashiest independent producer would secretly hit the "start" button on an ordinary cappuccino machine. He would then present his charmed visitors with cupfuls of "Dino's special cappuccino -- the best!"

That was a vintage De Laurentiis performance from the mid-1980s, when bankers and investors were enthralled with the gruff-talking miniature (5-ft. 4-in.) movie mogul. De Laurentiis proceeded...

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