The Widow of Dino De Laurentiis Worked in Hollywood for Decades and With Him Brought the Infamous Fictional Character Hannibal Lecter to Motion Pictures.
Martha De Laurentiis died on Sunday, December 4, 2021, at age 67 following a courageous battle with brain cancer. She passed away peacefully at her home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by her partner Dr. Randy Sherman and her daughters Carolyna and Dina. She also is survived by her parents, two brothers, and granddaughter Giada De Laurentiis.
Born Martha Schumacher in 1954, she grew up in Piqua, Ohio and was crowned Ohio’s Junior Miss in 1972. She graduated from Ball State University in Indiana and briefly worked as a model in New York. She switched careers in the late 1970s and entered the world of film production. There, she met the already well-known Dino De Laurentiis. Despite an age difference of 35 years, they formed a personal and professional relationship and got married in 1990.
During her career with Dino and then on her own, she created 40 motion pictures and television series, including Manhunter, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, U-571, Breakdown, Blue Velvet, Near Dark, Dark Zone, Artic, and Crimes of the Heart. She also produced the television series Hannibal.
Martha became known to the FBI’s public affairs personnel through her company’s occasional requests for assistance during the production of the motion pictures Manhunter, Red Dragon (a remake of Manhunter), Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising. Martha and Dino sought the rights as well to make the movie The Silence of the Lambs from the book of the same name, but the bidding did not go their way. To ensure that would not happen again, they bought the motion picture and television rights to the Hannibal Lecter name from book author Thomas Harris and made all three subsequent movies and the television show.
In addition to being a producer, Martha managed the construction and operations of three major film studios: Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina; the Village Roadshows Studios on the Gold Coast in Australia; and the CLA Studios in Ouarzazate, Morocco.
She was deeply passionate about helping women’s causes and with other charitable work. She loved traveling to Italy with Dino and her family. She loved opera as well, so much so that she arranged for an original work Vide Cor Meum to be composed and filmed as part of her 2001 motion picture Hannibal. The Hannibal Lecter character also loved opera, and this was incorporated into a major scene as well.
She had countless professional and personal friendships in the United States and abroad. Following the death of Mr. De Laurentiis in 2010 at age 91, Martha was the companion of Dr. Sherman, a surgeon in Los Angeles.
Martha is fondly remembered by all of the FBI personnel she met over the years. Retired FBI Special Agent Leane Blevins, who was assigned by the FBI to provide technical assistance as needed during the production of Red Dragon in 2002 as it filmed scenes in Los Angeles and in Baltimore, recalls that it was “truly was a pleasure to work with Martha.”
Retired FBI Public Affairs Specialist Rex S. Tomb of the Bureau’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., assisted Martha and her staff on several projects. He remembers that “her style, talent, and intelligence were immediately apparent. But it was her friendliness, kindness, and Midwestern charm that made her truly unforgettable. She was by any standard a standout.”
ERNEST JOHN PORTER
A retired Unit Chief and Supervisory Public Affairs Manager at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC, Mr. Porter worked with authors, radio shows, motion pictures, television shows, documentaries, FBI History, lecturing, and special projects for the FBI for nearly 40 years. He is the developer, owner, and manager of FBIOGRAPHY.