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Untold Tales of Hollywood #34

Here’s another Conan warm-up sketch:

While going through my archives, I came across a sheet of paper filled with a story that became legendary within the DeLaurentiis family.

Here’s the set-up and the story:
One evening I met two of Dino’s daughters, Raffaella (who was one of our producers) and her younger (sixteen-years-old) sister Francesca, both very attractive women. The next day I performed a little personality test. At breakfast, I presented Raffy with a beautiful red carnation, which I had purchased from my favorite flower stall in Zagreb. I then presented Francesca with my breakfast sugar cubes, knowing that she had a sweet tooth for lots of sugar in her morning coffee.

Raffy was gracious, but complained she had no boutonniere.

Francesca seemed charmed and delighted by my humble gift. I then showed Francesca my Conan art, which she had never seen, and we became fast friends.

About twenty minutes later I was approached by Sigo, who beckoned to me to come out of my (and Ron Cobb‘s) office. I don’t recall what Sigo’s job on the film was; he was probably a DeLaurentiis “fixer”. Sigo looked like a Yugoslavian hitman, dressed head-to-toe in black leather, with a dead-eyed look on his face. Lurking not too far down the hallway from Sigo was Francesca’s uncle, Alfredo DeLaurentiis, his usual grim countenance appearing grimmer than ever.

Sigo leaned forward, searching deep into my eyes for intentions. He spoke slowly and seriously:

“Don’t…touch…leetle…girl.”

“Don’t worry,” I joked. “There are plenty of sixteen-year-old Yugoslavian girls.”

Alfredo glanced away when I looked over to him.

Sigo’s cold expression melted into his more familiar gap-toothed grin.

“Of course, you know I’m only joking…” he laughed.

I stared deep into the eyes of this human crocodile and knew he wasn’t.

“Oh, of course,” I reassured him.

Sigo’s eyes then caught Alfredo’s. The slightly grim and anxious old Italian’s brow knit in acknowledgement. He turned and retreated silently back into Cobb’s office, followed by Sigo. I trailed Sigo with Nino Rota’s The Godfather theme playing inside my head.

This story spread and became part of the film’s backstage lore. Many decades later I ran into Raffaella at Dino’s funeral service in L. A. When her eyes caught mine she burst into a huge smile of recognition.

“Don’t touch leetle girl!” she laughed.

2 thoughts on “Untold Tales of Hollywood #34

  1. Great story. And I love the black panther sketch. I never really understood though why the producers didn’t stitch a few of R. E. Howard’s stories together (Rogues in the House, The God in the Bowl, The Tower of the Elephant for example) with a common theme and do a script from that. But I suppose by that time with the books gaining popularity it was a matter of what was in the public domain.
    Oh, and again, that snake would have been a whole lot more exciting given the talents of Ray Harryhausen.
    Thank you for the look behind the scenes.

  2. @Aaron: I did just what you suggested…I stitched together several of Howard’s Amra stories when I wrote my Conan and the Eye of Death screenplay. These were the tales that detailed Conan’s life as a buccaneer, when his sailors called him Amra the Lion in honor and respect for his captaining and fighting skills.

    In doing so I learned how difficult it was to adapt Howard’s Conan stories to the screen. Howard’s tales are colorful, but when you strip away the colorful descriptions and break his stories down to the bare bones of plot, you suddenly discover there’s nothing there — or at least nothing that would surprise or entertain your average movie goer. Howard was pretty terrible when it came to story structure but great at strewing descriptive gems throughout his stories. That’s why it’s easier to remember really cool scenes much better than any plot surprises in the Conan stories.

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