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King of the Gypsies
Theatrical release poster by Sanford Kossin
Directed byFrank Pierson
Written byPeter Maas (book)
Frank Pierson (screenplay)
Produced byDino De Laurentiis (executive producer)
Federico De Laurentiis
StarringEric Roberts
Sterling Hayden
Shelley Winters
Susan Sarandon
Brooke Shields
Annette O'Toole
Judd Hirsch
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Music byDavid Grisman, Stephane Grappelli
Dino De Laurentiis Company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 20, 1978 (1978-12-20)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7,325,177 (USA)

King of the Gypsies is a 1978 American drama film by Paramount Pictures starring Eric Roberts (in his film debut), Sterling Hayden, Shelley Winters, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Annette O'Toole and Judd Hirsch.

Directed by Frank Pierson, the screenplay was adapted by Pierson from the 1975 book King of the Gypsies by Peter Maas, which tells the story of Steve Tene and his Gypsy family.

Several technical advisors, bit players and extras who worked on the movie were real gypsies. David Grisman composed the score, which prominently featured legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli; both men also appeared onscreen as gypsy musicians. Future actress Rachel Ticotin was one of the gypsy dancers.

Eric Roberts was nominated for a 1979 Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture Acting Debut – Male" for his performance as Dave.

Plot summary

The film deals with the criminal ways and turbulent lives of a group of modern-day Gypsies living in the early 1960s of New York City. While on his deathbed their "king", Zharko Stepanowicz (Sterling Hayden), passes his position of leadership on to his unwilling grandson, Dave (Eric Roberts). In spite of Dave's reluctance to become the Gypsies' new leader, Dave's father, Groffo (Judd Hirsch), resentful over not having been appointed leader, attempts to have Dave killed. Groffo is scheming and temperamental, and uses violence and threats to get the clan to do his bidding. Eventually this leads to a major confrontation with his son, and the film ends with the suggestion that Dave has finally accepted his legacy; with his voiceover considering the possibility of his bringing the rest of the tradition-bound Gypsies into the world of 20th Century customs and lifestyles.



Peter Bogdanovich was originally announced as director.[1]

Additional notes

Dave's sister, Tita, is played by Brooke Shields, and his girlfriend, Sharon, is played by Annette O'Toole. This was the second consecutive film in which Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields played mother and daughter, following Pretty Baby. Five and a half years after the release of the film, on June 20, 1984, Shelley Winters and Annie Potts appeared as guests on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Winters had no memory of working with Potts and the conversation brought the house down. A clip of this segment was replayed on several Tonight Show anniversary specials.

The casting director was future producer Scott Rudin; it is his first screen credit in any capacity.

See also


  1. ^ "Briefs on the Arts: Monet Study Added To Met Exhibition Bogdanovich Signs For Gypsy Film Mrs. Ford to Aid Group for Dance". New York Times. 25 January 1975. p. 13.