Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot’ and ‘Air Force One,’ Dies at 81

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Wolfgang Petersen, whose German-language film “Das Boot” launched a successful Hollywood filmmaking career that included star-studded films like “Air Force One” and “The Perfect Storm,” has died, a representative told TheWrap. He was 81.

Petersen died Friday with his wife Maria Antoinette by his side after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

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Petersen’s film “Das Boot” or “The Boat” (1981) launched his career in Hollywood after the close-quarters WWII submarine drama received six Academy Award nominations. The film starred Jürgen Prochnow as the German U-boat Captain, and was made into an English-language miniseries by the BBC.

His first Hollywood venture was the live-action fantasy “The NeverEnding Story” (1984), which he co-wrote. The now-cult classic follows a young boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who stumbles upon a fantastical world accused via a magical book. The world merges with his own when and encroaching lack of imagination – a burgeoning void called the Nothing – threatens all of existence.

From there, Petersen was off to the races, and was in high demand for star-driven hit films in nearly every genre. He worked with a who’s-who of Hollywood stars in the 1980s and 1990s, and his rapport with A-listers made him beloved among the moviemaking elite of the time.

The director went on to make more action-packed films like “The Perfect Storm” (2001) based on Sebastian Junger’s nonfiction book and starred George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Other works included “Enemy Mine” starring Dennis Quaid, “Shattered” with Tom Berenger, Bob Hoskins and Greta Schacchi, “In the Line of Fire” starring Clint Eastwood, “Outbreak,” “Air Force One,” “Poseidon” and “Troy.”

Eastwood played a Secret Service agent traumatized by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 1993 film “In the Line of Fire.” In 1995, “Outbreak” starring Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo and Morgan Freeman spotlighted a killer virus as well as a wrought romantic relationship.

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Other actors who worked under Petersen’s direction range from Glenn Close to Harrison Ford, who worked with Petersen in “Air Force One” (1997), starring as a formidable president who can fend for himself.

Petersen is survived by his wife, son Daniel and two grandchildren.