NEW YORK – Dino De Laurentiis, the Academy Award-winning producer of the Italian New Wave, died Wednesday night at age 91 in Beverly Hills.

His dozens of credits included art-house classics “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria,” cult favorite “Blue Velvet,” Hollywood epics “War and Peace” and “The Bible,” and mainstream hits such as “Three Days of the Condor.” He backed horror films (“Halloween 2”), police drama (“Serpico”) and the most far-out science fiction fused with sex and sexuality (“Barbarella”).

And when he bombed, he really bombed: “Dune,” about which director David Lynch complained he was denied creative control; the Madonna vehicle “Body of Evidence”; and the 1976 remake of “King, Kong,” which nearly finished off the career of Jessica Lange before it really started.

De Laurentiis was one of the first producers to understand the box-office potential of foreign audiences, and helped invent international co-productions, raising money by pre-selling distribution rights outside North America.

Throughout his career, he alternated lavish, big-budget productions with less commercial films by directors such as Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman and Lynch, and he often packaged the blockbusters with art films to secure distribution for the smaller films.

Raised outside of Naples as one of six children born into the family’s pasta-making business, De Laurentiis realized that his destiny was in moviemaking.

He was central to the rise of Italy’s film industry, which in the 1950s gained international prominence as the Italian New Wave. His initial success began after World War II, starting with “Bitter Rice” in 1948, which launched the career of his first wife, Silvana Mangano.

In 1950, he went into business with another rising director, Carlo Ponti. They soon dominated the Italian movie business, monopolizing top stars such as Mangano, Sophia Loren (who later married Ponti) and Marcello Mastroianni. Their first international production was the epic “War and Peace” (Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer) in 1955.

With the lure of huge salaries, he often imported international movie stars to boost a film’s prospects. For Fellini’s “La Strada,” which won the Academy Award for foreign language film in 1957, he persuaded Anthony Quinn to come to Rome. De Laurentiis also produced Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria,” which won the foreign film Oscar a year later.

At Dinocitta, De Laurentiis married Hollywood stars with spectacle: “Barrabas” (Quinn); “The Bible” (George C. Scott, Ava Gardner); “Anzio” (Robert Mitchum); “Waterloo” (Rod Steiger). He also made more offbeat fare, such as Roger Vadim’s sex romp, “Barbarella” (Jane Fonda).

He began to move away from his base in Italy in the 1960s when the government changed the rules to mandate totally Italian productions to qualify for subsidies. He relocated the studio in Wilmington, N.C., and dubbed his production company the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

The Oscar-winning “Serpico,” in 1973 with Al Pacino, was De Laurentiis’ Hollywood debut. Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish,” Robert Redford’s “Three Days of the Condor” and John Wayne’s last film, “The Shootist,” followed.

He often stayed loyal to young, talented directors, even though the results weren’t always strong. He made “Buffalo Bill and the Indians” with Robert Altman. Even after Michael Cimino’s huge flop “Heaven’s Gate,” De Laurentiis made “Year of the Dragon” and “Desperate Hours” with him. Despite the failure of “Dune,” he stuck with David Lynch and two years later produced the acclaimed “Blue Velvet.”

Though he had earlier worked with revered filmmakers such as Victorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Ingmar Bergman, some of his schlock included the plantation drama “Mandingo,” the horror film “Amityville II,” the cult comedy “Army of Darkness” and Madonna’s “Body of Evidence.”

“My philosophy is very simple,” he once said. “To feel young, you must work as long as you can.”