Das Boot, Air Force One, And The NeverEnding Story Director Wolfgang Petersen Has Died At 81

Wolfgang Petersen, an Academy Award-nominated director that made several Hollywood classics, has died. Deadline first reported the news, saying the filmmaker passed away on August 12 after a long bout with pancreatic cancer at the age of 81.

Petersen was well known throughout the filmmaking industry for his blockbuster features, which were usually grand in scope and full of ambition. Among the most successful of these was "Das Boot," an adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. It told the story of a group of German submarine sailors during World War II, some of them clashing with each other over their different ideologies, as they navigated the treacherous seas during the Battle of the Atlantic. It received six Oscar nominations, one of which was for Best Director for Petersen. But that was just one of his big screen accomplishments.

An icon remembered

Born in Germany on March 14, 1941, Petersen began his directing career with plays and other stage productions in the 1960s. In 1968, he directed his first short film, "Die rote Fahne," which centers around a group of 15 people participating in a seemingly random relay race in the streets of Berlin. He made two short films in 1969 before directing his first official feature, "Einer Von Uns Beiden" ("One or the Other of Us") in 1974. While financials on the film are unknown, it was a critical success, having scored two German Film Awards for Best New Director and Best Cinematography.

After achieving international success with "Das Boot" (above), he directed the 1984 fantasy film "The NeverEnding Story," based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende. The film would eventually spawn a franchise, its sequel continuing the plot from the novel and the third film having an all-original story. While that movie was geared more towards children, the majority of his output would be strictly geared towards adults. 

"In the Line of Fire" in 1993 and "Air Force One" in 1997 saw him tackle conspiracy action thrillers, while 1995's "Outbreak" envisioned a world where a mysterious virus wreaked havoc on the world.

However, his bread and butter continued to be epics. "A Perfect Storm" in 2000 had him put a small fishing boat in the midst of a massive oceanic storm, and 2004's "Troy" retold the story of "The Illiad" through the eyes of Achilles (Brad Pitt). His final English film was the 2006 disaster epic "Poseidon," and his final film overall was the 2016 German heist comedy "Vier Gegen Die Bank" ("Four Against the Bank").

Wolfgang Petersen is survived by his wife of fifty years, Maria Antoinette Borgel-Petersen, his son, Daniel Petersen, and his two grandchildren. The family of Petersen plans to conduct a private funeral service. We at /Film send our condolences to Petersen's family and friends at this time.