Wolfgang Petersen, filmmaker behind Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story, dead at 81

Wolfgang Petersen, the conductor of his famous German-language film Start up Das successful in directing Hollywood blockbusters such as In the fire area, Air Force One, Perfect storm and The City of Troy, has died. He was 81 years old.

Petersen died Friday at his home in the Brentwood, Los Angeles neighborhood after a battle with pancreatic cancer, representative Michelle Bega said.

Petersen is perhaps best known for 1981 Start up Das, the harrowing story of life on a German U-boat during the Second World War. In it, he accomplishes a feat that is unlikely to delight audiences with ordinary men serving on submarines who were at least nominally serving the Nazi cause. .

Start up Das was nominated for six Academy Awards – a huge number for a foreign film – including two for Petersen, for director and adapted screenplay.

An ‘act of imagination’

But the director started with very different films. His first movie in Hollywood was a fantasy adventure in 1984 The story never endsDirected and co-written by him.

Roger Ebert said they’ve managed to let the kids know that “story doesn’t just happen somehow, but storytelling is an act of imagination” and that the film has been loved by audiences. since release.

However, Petersen was successful in attracting children, he quickly turned to films aimed at adults. His next attempt is My Enemytells the story of an astronaut (Dennis Quaid) who lands on an alien planet and teams up with a lizard-like alien (Louis Gossett Jr.) from his species who is fighting to survive in a harsh environment. .

The film was not critically well received and did not earn money, and indeed, Petersen did not make another film in six years.

Atreyu, played by Noah Hathaway, helps the horse Artax cross the Swamp of Sorrow in Wolfgang Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story. (Movie Neue Constantin)

A creative leap

He returned in 1991 with the mystery thriller Brokenstarring Tom Berenger, Bob Hoskins and Greta Scacchi, then took an extraordinary creative leap with the critically acclaimed Clint Eastwood film. In the fire area in 1993.

Using new and highly innovative technology at the time, the effects team digitally inserted Eastwood’s images from 1960s films into the JFK footage.

“It was my best experience after Start up Das“, Petersen told Variety before the film’s release. Working with Clint has been a great experience. “

In the fire area was Petersen’s first film to reach a significant box office – $177 million worldwide in 1993.

After subsequent successes with Outbreak in 1995, Air Force One in 1997, and led by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg Perfect storm in 2000, Petersen turned gears for his next project, The City of Troy.

Based on Homer’s Iliad, it’s filled with epic-scale action – as well as movie stars including Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom. Critics were mostly unimpressed. New York Magazine called it “a fairly conventional action shot with an advanced case of colitis… The actors are forever classic standout poses; they’re trying to tribute the movie.” But you can’t force this – either you’re delusional or you don’t.”

From left, actors Eric Bana, Peter O’Toole and Brad Pitt attend the premiere of Troy on May 10, 2004 in New York City. Troy, one of Petersen’s most successful films, grossed $497 million worldwide. (Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

But overall, Petersen helped pioneer the critically acclaimed film – The City of TroyWorldwide gross is $497 million, much of it from overseas. (Adjusted for inflation, Air Force One is the director’s most successful film.)

Petersen is in a high position, but the next movie has engulfed him. Poseidon (2006), a lead remake of Poseidon Adventures, had a production budget of $160 million and generated only $182 million at the worldwide box office, resulting in a huge loss for Time Warner once advertising costs were taken into account. This will be Petersen’s last Hollywood film.

The director seemed to be retiring at the time, but a decade later he made a film in Germany, Bank Vier gegen die (Four Against the Bank), a remake of his own 1976 German television series of the same name and based on the 1972 novel Caper recession Nixon by Ralph Maloney.

The original tells the story of “four members of an exclusive country club who decide to rob a bank to solve their money problems.” New movie starring Til Schweiger.

The beginning of German cinema

Born in Emden, Germany, the director started making TV series in his home country, earning his first credit in 1965 and making stable TV series from 1971 to 1978. While making popular TV series of Germany Tatort (Crime Scene), he first met and worked with actor Jurgen Prochnow – who would appear in several of his films, including the role of Captain U-boat in Start up Das.

Petersen’s first feature film was a psychological thriller in 1974 One or the other of ours, starring Prochnow. Next is the 1977 black and white film Die Konsequenz, adapted from Alexander Ziegler’s autobiographical novel about same-sex love. The series was considered radical at the time, when it was first broadcast on German television, the Bavarian network refused to air it.

Petersen was married to German actor Ursula Sieg until their divorce in 1978.

He is survived by his second wife Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German script supervisor and assistant director whom he married in 1978, and a son of Sieg, writer and director Daniel Petersen.

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