Agostino "Dino" De Laurentiis (Italian: [ˈdiːno de lauˈrɛntis] 8 August 1919 – 10 November 2010) was an Italian film producer. Along with Carlo Ponti, he was one of the producers who brought Italian cinema to the international scene at the end of World War II. He produced or co-produced more than 500 films, of which 38 were nominated for Academy Awards. He also had a brief acting career in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Dino de Laurentiis of the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group asked David Lynch to create a film adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune (1965). Lynch agreed, and in doing so was also contractually obliged to produce two other works for the company. He then set about writing a script based upon the original novel, initially with both Chris de Vore and Eric Bergren, and then just by himself when De Laurentiis wasn't happy with their ideas. Lynch also helped build some of the sets, attempting to create "a certain look" for the film, and he particularly enjoyed building the set for the oil planet of Giedi Prime, for which he "used steel, bolts, and porcelain to construct" it.
Dune is set in the far future, when humans live in an interstellar empire under a feudal system. The main character, Paul Atreides (played by Kyle MacLachlan), is the son of a noble who takes control of the desert planet Arrakis, which grows the rare spice melange, the most highly prized commodity in the empire. Lynch, however, was unhappy with the work, later remarking that "Dune was a kind of studio film. I didn't have final cut. And, little by little, I was subconsciously making compromises" to his own vision. Much of his footage was eventually removed from the final theatrical cut, dramatically condensing the plot. Although De Laurentiis hoped it would be as successful as Star Wars, Lynch's Dune (1984) was a critical and commercial dud; it had cost $45 million to make, and grossed a mere $27.4 million domestically. Later on, Universal Studios released an "extended cut" of the film for syndicated television, containing almost an hour of cutting-room-floor footage and new narration. Such was not representative of Lynch's intentions, but the studio considered it more comprehensible than the original two-hour version. Lynch objected to these changes and had his name struck from the extended cut, which has "Alan Smithee" credited as the director and "Judas Booth" (a pseudonym which Lynch himself invented, inspired by his own feelings of betrayal) as the screenwriter.
Meanwhile, in 1983, he had begun the writing and drawing of a comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World, which featured unchanging graphics of a tethered dog that was so angry that it could not move, alongside cryptic philosophical references. It ran from 1983 until 1992 in the Village Voice, Creative Loafing and other tabloid and alternative publications. It was around this period that Lynch also became interested in photography as an art form, and travelled to northern England to take photos of the degrading industrial landscape, something that he was particularly interested in.
Following on from Dune, Lynch was contractually still obliged to produce two other projects for De Laurentiis: the first of these was a planned sequel, which due to the film's lack of success never went beyond the script stage. The other was a more personal work, based upon a script that Lynch had been working on for some time. Developing from ideas that Lynch had had since 1973, the resulting film, Blue Velvet, was set in the fictional town of Lumberton, USA, and revolves around a college student named Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), who finds a severed ear in a field. Subsequently, investigating further with the help of friend Sandy (Laura Dern), he uncovers that it is related to a criminal gang led by psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who has kidnapped the husband and child of singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and repeatedly subjects her to rape. Lynch himself characterizes the story as "a dream of strange desires wrapped inside a mystery story".
For the film, Lynch decided to include pop songs from the 1960s, including "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison and "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton, the latter of which was largely inspirational for the film, with Lynch stating that "It was the song that sparked the movie ... There was something mysterious about it. It made me think about things. And the first things I thought about were lawns – lawns and the neighbourhood." Other music for the film was also produced, this time composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who would go on to produce the music for most of Lynch's subsequent cinematic works. Dino de Laurentiis loved the film, and it achieved support from some of the early specialist screenings, but the preview screenings to a mainstream audience were instead highly negative, with most of the audience hating the film. Although Lynch had found success previously with The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet's controversy with audiences and critics introduced him into the mainstream, and became a huge critical and moderate commercial success. The film earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Woody Allen, whose film Hannah and Her Sisters was nominated for Best Picture, said that Blue Velvet was his favorite film of the year.