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Wolfgang Petersen Dies: ‘Das Boot’ and ‘The Perfect Storm’ Director Was 81

The Oscar-nominated German director found success in Hollywood with throwback disaster epics like "The Perfect Storm" and family fare including "The NeverEnding Story."

DAS BOOT, director, Wolfgang Petersen, 1981. ©Columbia Pictures. Courtesy: Everett Collection

Wolfgang Petersen on the set of “Das Boot”

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Wolfgang Petersen, the Oscar-nominated director of throwback epics like “Das Boot” and “The Perfect Storm,” has died at the age of 81. Deadline first reported the news of his passing.

In addition to the WWII submarine warfare film that earned six Academy Award nominations including Best Director, Petersen also directed 1984’s beloved family favorite “The NeverEnding Story,” “Enemy Mine” (1985), Clint Eastwood political thriller “In the Line of Fire” (1993), pandemic disaster movie “Outbreak” (1995), Harrison Ford presidential hijacking thriller “Air Force One” (1997), and swords-and-sandals tentpole “Troy” (2004).

Petersen was born in Germany in 1941, and it was in Hamburg in the 1960s that he started directing plays before moving into TV movies for German television, eventually gaining notices for his 1974 psychological thriller debut “One or the Other of Us.” But Petersen reached an international audience with the 1982 release of “Das Boot,” a nearly three-hour German-language underwater film about the men serving aboard German WWII U-boats.

Petersen then forayed into Hollywood with fantasy film “NeverEnding Story,” which remains a cult favorite and marvel of in-camera effects with its sprawling good-versus-evil tale of a young warrior trying to save the land of Fantasia from dark forces.

Petersen’s later success with “In the Line of Fire,” starring Eastwood as a Secret Service officer, propelled him into making Hollywood tentpoles like “Outbreak” and the blockbuster “Air Force One.” Petersen worked with beloved cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, longtime a collaborator of Martin Scorsese and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, on the latter films.

Next up came summer blockbuster “Perfect Storm,” the massive maritime survival movie based on a true story and starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. It was an enormous box office success, grossing nearly $330 million dollars. Next up, while excoriated by some critics, Trojan War story “Troy” starring Brad Pitt as Achilles was also a box office success. Petersen’s last film in Hollywod was the 2006 disaster movie remake “Poseidon,” which sank at the box office. He took a 1o-year hiatus before directing his final film, the German-language comedy “Four Against the Bank,” in 2016.

Per Deadline, Petersen passed last Friday in his Brentwood home after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He died on the arms of his wife of 50 years, Maria Antoinette.

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