Wolfgang Petersen, Das Boot and Air Force One director, dies at 81

Wolfgang Petersen, the Oscar-nominated German filmmaker who made a name for himself with the World War II drama Das Boot and went on to direct such Hollywood hits as Air Force One, The Perfect Storm, and Troy, died Aug. 12 from pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

A statement provided to EW by a representative said Petersen died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles in the arms of his wife of 50 years, Maria Antoinette.

Born March 14, 1941, in Emden, Germany, Petersen began his directing career in the 1960s. His first feature film was 1974's One or the Other of Us, but it was his third film, 1981's Das Boot, that took his career to the next level.

The critically acclaimed drama about life aboard a German U-boat earned six Academy Award nominations, including nods for Petersen for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Wolfgang Petersen
Wolfgang Petersen

Everett Collection Wolfgang Petersen

Following the success of Das Boot, Petersen took his talents to Hollywood, carving out a space for himself helming starry action thrillers that boasted technically precise set pieces. Some of his most notable films included The Perfect Storm, Poseidon, Troy, Air Force One, Outbreak, and In the Line of Fire. Petersen also co-wrote and directed the 1980s cult classic The NeverEnding Story, his first English-language film.

He excelled at cultivating talent, working with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Glenn Close, Dustin Hoffman, and more.

"Being directed by Wolfgang on Air Force One remains a special memory," said Close in a statement. "Even though the script was thrilling and incredibly intense, I remember a lot of laughs, especially in the scenes around the huge table in the War Room. Wolfgang set a remotely controlled camera that could rotate in place,  seamlessly covering all of us, one after another. You knew the camera would pause on you by his hilarious direction while setting up the shot. He would point to us in turn and say, 'Acting...acting...NO acting...NO acting...ACTING... aaaacting!'  He didn't waste anyone's time. My memory is of a man full of joie de vivre who was doing what he most loved to do."

Petersen's final film was the 2016 heist comedy Vier gegen die Bank, which also marked his first German-language film since Das Boot.

In addition to his wife, Petersen is survived by his son Daniel, daughter-in-law Berit, and two grandchildren, Maja and Julien.

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