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Munich–Rome–Los Angeles, or ‘The last temptation of Ingmar Bergman’
Thomas Elsaesser

This chapter deals with Bergman’s close contacts with transnational film producer Dino de Laurentiis, working out of Rome, and with legendary Hollywood talent agent Paul Kohner. Bergman discussed potential film projects with both of them over the years, and their correspondence is traced in detail here. Bergman was contacted by De Laurentiis in the early 1960s regarding a possible adaptation of the story of Jesus, which in the end came to nothing. Bergman also enjoyed close contacts with Kohner, who was the agent of Bergman actress Liv Ullmann. As with predecessors like Mauritz Stiller, who had entered Hollywood in the 1920s accompanied by Greta Garbo, Bergman’s possible entrance into Hollywood was connected to his leading female star. Kohner was also involved with certain distribution deals regarding Bergman’s films in the USA. The possible projects discussed by Bergman and Kohner mainly concerned a possible Hollywood adaptation for the cinema of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow, starring American actress Barbra Streisand, a project which also involved de Laurentiis as producer. Had the film been made, it would have become the fourth film version of this story. Although it was discussed for several years and went through various stages of development, Bergman’s enthusiasm for the project eventually waned, and Elsaesser emphasizes Bergman’s difficulties in adapting to Hollywood professional strategies. As for de Laurentiis, he would eventually produce Bergman’s English-language film The Serpent’s Egg (1977), shot in Germany during Bergman’s self-imposed exile from Sweden.

in Ingmar Bergman