Died at age 81 was Wolfgang Petersen, Oscar-nominated director of ‘Das Boot.’

David Smith
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Wolfgang Petersen

Wolfgang Petersen, a German filmmaker whose 1981 drama “Das Boot” received worldwide acclaim for its humane depiction of U-boat sailors during World War II, and who later had a long Hollywood career directing action-driven blockbusters such as “Air Force One,” “The Perfect Storm,” and “Troy,” died on August 12 at his Brentwood home. He was 81.

According to a statement published Tuesday by his manager Michelle Bega, the cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

After beginning his directing career in the 1960s on West German television, Mr. Petersen was catapulted to international notoriety by “Das Boot” or “The Boat” (1981). This terrifying antiwar picture immersed moviegoers in a claustrophobic, sweating German submarine during World War II. 

Roger Ebert, a film critic, compared the film’s impact to that of a documentary, noting that there are moments “when we feel trapped in the same time and location as the frantic crew.” In addition, he stated, “Wolfgang Petersen’s direction exemplifies sheer workmanship.”

Wolfgang Petersen

Mr. Petersen stated that he was initially concerned about the reaction to the picture in the United States. When he attended the Los Angeles premiere, he was shocked to see the audience applaud after a title card stating that 30,000 German submariners perished during the war.

 Two and a half hours later, when the film concluded, he told the New Jersey Record, “the audience was in tears, in shock, and turned around by the message: ‘OK, I know these guys were on the other side, but if you cut through to the bottom, what war is all about, is children getting killed on both sides.'”

Wolfgang Petersen Career, What did he do for a living?

Petersen made his theatrical feature film debut in 1974 with the psychological thriller One or the Other of Us, based on Horst Bosetzky’s novel Einer von uns beiden and released anonymously under his pseudonym and starring Jürgen Prochnow. In 1977, he directed Die Konsequenz, a black-and-white adaptation of Alexander Ziegler’s account of homosexual love.

 Mr. Petersen was nominated for two Academy Awards for directing and adapting a novel by German author Lothar-Günter Buchheim into a screenplay. “Das Boot” grossed over $80 million worldwide and became the highest-grossing foreign-language film in the United States. Mr. Petersen worked with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Glenn Close, Dustin Hoffman, and Morgan Freeman.

Even as he transitioned to big-budget action thrillers, Mr. Petersen maintained a focus on intimate human drama in films such as “In the Line of Fire” (1993), starring Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service agent pursuing a would-be assassin, and “Air Force One” (1997), which grossed $315 million at the global box office and became one of the decade’s most popular action films, starring Harrison Ford as a U.S. president.

Wolfgang Petersen

His debut English-language film, “The NeverEnding Story” (1984), was a fantasy adaptation of Michael Ende’s best-selling children’s novel. Mr. Petersen was revitalized by the picture, which highlighted the power of creativity and included a flying dragon-dog and beautiful land called Fantasia, after spending three years working on “Das Boot.” “If people stop dreaming, they will perish,” he told the New York Times, adding, “The entire premise of the film is that we need your imagination, your dreams, your wants, and your creativity to combat all these deadly problems in the world.” (The film produced two sequels without his participation.

Later, Mr. Petersen took audiences to the realm of Homer’s “Iliad” by directing the 2004 military epic “Troy” alongside Mr. Pitt. In 1995, he adapted Richard Preston’s nonfiction book “The Hot Zone” into “Outbreak,” a medical thriller depicting the spread of an Ebola-like virus. He appeared especially at ease working with historical material and journalistic research. Based on Sebastian Junger’s nonfiction narrative of a Massachusetts fishing schooner lost at sea, he later directed Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in “The Perfect Storm” (2000).

After the release of “Troy,” which grossed about $500 million worldwide but received mixed reviews, Mr. Petersen directed “Poseidon” (2006), a high-budget remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972) that reviewers panned. 

Mr. Petersen stated that he did not care about negative reviews, claiming that reviewers were often snooty about his films and failed to understand that they kept audiences captivated.

After the debut of “The NeverEnding Story,” he told the Times, “I want to tell a story that everyone loves.” “Another director would say, ‘This is my vision, and whoever gets it and loves it, that’s great. 

Whoever disagrees, please exit!’ But I’m not like that.” Wolfgang Petersen was born on March 14, 1941, in Emden, Germany, a port city near the North Sea, and grew up in a time of postwar adversity. He frequently stayed with other young Germans at the harbor, hoping to catch sweets thrown by American sailors entering port on battleships he described in almost magical terms.

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What about his Children, Wolfgang Petersen’s Wife?

From 1970 until 1978, Wolfgang Petersen married Ursula Sieg, a German actress. After his divorce, he began dating Maria Borgel-Petersen, whom he wed in 1978. German assistant director and script supervisor Maria-Antoinette Borgel.

How much money is Wolfgang Petersen worth?

Wolfgang Petersen was a German film director and creator valued at USD 20 million online.

Director nominated for an Oscar, Wolfgang Petersen, dies at age 81

The Oscar-nominated director of “Das Boot” and “Air Force One,” Wolfgang Petersen, passed away on August 12, his publicist, Michelle Bega of Rogers & Cowan/PMK, informed CNN.

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