On a recent Sunday in April, the president followed his pre-game routine to the letter. He arrived at the stadium in a minivan with blacked-out windows, with an escort, from the palace where he has his clothes. He greeted his guests, taking care to avoid those who might bring bad luck. Then he sat down in the center of the authority stand, the one for officials and VIPs. His wife, his lawyers and his friends were placed around him, according to the winning arrangement, dictated by him alone. When the crowd in the Maradona stadium chanted the names of the players of Napoli, his football club, the elegant man with slicked-back hair remained unperturbed.
Nineteen years after saving the club from bankruptcy, Aurelio De Laurentiis, a film producer, was enjoying his success, as Napoli hosted AC Milan for a league match. But 3 minutes after kick-off, the Curva B, the stand with the most die-hard ultras, began to insult him, reminding him of his original sin: “De Laurentiis, you are not Neapolitan!” The truth is, he is Roman, and the distinction is important. Despite this, the impulsive 70-something was in control of his nerves, like a sphinx in the midst of chaos: He knew that, despite the defeat, his team will soon win its first league title since 1990, when Diego Maradona, the football god himself, wore Napoli’s shirt. And if the title is secured, the ungrateful city will owe it in part to him, the Roman owner.
For a long time, De Laurentiis did his accounts at the end of the calendar year, rather than in the spring. His eye was not riveted on the football results but on those of the Christmas box office. He is the king of the cinepanettonethe family comedies that have made his fortune and his reputation: Christmas on the Nile, Christmas in India and Christmas in Rio. This inexhaustible source of income has often allowed him to surpass one million tickets sold and to fill his trophy cabinet: 50 Biglietti d’oro and 15 David di Donatello. De Laurentiis has produced more than 400 films since he started his career in 1975 with the Filmauro company, which he launched with his father, Luigi De Laurentiis.
Football club in crisis
At 73 years old, the president bears this name that so often appeared in credits. His uncle, Dino, produced Italian masterpieces such as Bitter Rice (1949) and La Strada (1954) and also “made in the USA” films, such as Serpico (1973) and Conan the Barbarian (1982). It was he, Uncle Dino, who opened the doors of America to this family originally from Torre Annunziata, a seaside town at the foot of Vesuvius where their grandfather ran a pasta factory. Since then, the family has become a global dynasty, moving back and forth from Rome to Hollywood until an unmissable business opportunity took Aurelio to the Gulf of Naples.
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