Wolfgang Petersen, the German filmmaker whose World War II underwater epic ‘Das Boot’ launched him into a successful Hollywood career that included the films ‘In the Line of Fire’, ‘Air Force One’ and “The Perfect Storm”, has passed away.
He was 81 years old.
Petersen died Friday at his home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Rep. Michelle Bega said.
Petersen, born in Emden, Germany, made two feature films before his 1982 breakthrough, “Das Boot.” Then the most expensive film in the history of German cinema, 149-minute “Das Boot” (the original cut was 210 minutes long) chronicled the intense claustrophobia of life aboard a doomed German submarine. during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jürgen Prochnow as the submarine’s commander.
Heralded as an anti-war masterpiece, “Das Boot” was nominated for six Oscars, including for Petersen’s direction and its adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s bestselling 1973 novel.
For Petersen, who grew up on the northern coast of Germany, the sea has long held his fascination. He would return to it in the 2000 disaster film, “The Perfect Storm”, a true story of a fishing boat lost at sea.
“The power of water is amazing,” Petersen said in a 2009 interview. “I was always impressed as a kid by how strong it was, all the damage water could do when it spun in a few hours and crashed against the shore.”
“Das Boot” launched Petersen as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he became one of the top creators of massive wartime cataclysm action adventures (“Troy” from 2004, starring Brad Pitt), the pandemic (the 1995 epidemic inspired by the ebolavirus”) and other ocean disasters (“Poseidon” from 2006, about the capsizing of an ocean liner).
Petersen is survived by his second wife Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German screenwriter and assistant director whom he married in 1978, his son Daniel Petersen and two grandchildren.
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