Wolfgang Petersen, the Oscar-nominated German filmmaker best known for his WWII classic Das Boot, the true story The Perfect Storm, and the presidential thrillers In the Line of Fire and Air Force One, has died aged 81.
The director’s passing was confirmed by his production company. He died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday August 12, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Petersen made two features before his 1982 breakthrough, Das Boot which was then the most expensive movie in German film history.
The 149-minute film (the original cut ran 210 minutes) chronicled the intense claustrophobia of life aboard a doomed German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jurgen Prochnow as the submarine’s commander.
Heralded as an antiwar masterpiece, Das Boot was nominated for six Oscars, including for Petersen’s direction and his adaptation of Lothar-Gunther Buchheim’s best-selling 1973 novel.
Das Boot launched Petersen as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he became one of the top makers of cataclysmic action adventures in films spanning war (2004’s Troy with Brad Pitt), pandemic (the 1995 ebolavirus-inspired Outbreak) and other ocean-set disasters (2000’s The Perfect Storm and 2006’s Poseidon, a remake of “The Poseidon Adventure,” about the capsizing of an ocean liner).
In the 1990s, he was behind the lens directing two screen legends: Clint Eastwood as the veteran presidential bodyguard out to stop an assassin in In the Line of Fire (1993) and Harrison Ford (1997) as the embattled Commander-in-Chief in Air Force One.
Troy, the 2006 epic based on Homer’s Iliad, found less favour among critics but made nearly $US500 million ($712.6m) worldwide.
Petersen is survived by his wife, Maria Antoinette Borgel, son Daniel, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.