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

Wolfgang Petersen, who parlayed his famous German-language film “Das Boot” into a career directing Hollywood blockbusters such as “In the Line of Fire,” “Air Force One,” “The Perfect Storm” and “Troy” Did, has died. He was 81 years old.

This news has been confirmed by his production company.

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“Das Boot” (1981) was the harrowing story of life aboard a German U-boat during World War II; The film’s genius was that Peterson accomplished the impossible feat of making the audience feel for the ordinary men serving on the submarine, all of whom were at least nominally in the service of the Nazi cause—even the captain, Jürgen Prochnow. Played by Parle himself. Film role in a career as a character actor in Hollywood. Offering suspense and tragedy, “Das Boot” was nominated for six Oscars — a staggering number for a foreign film — including two for Peterson, for director and adapted screenplay. On IMDb’s list of 250 top-rated movies, “Das Boot” is at number 71. (A director’s cut of 293 minutes was released as a TV miniseries in Germany in 1985 and on DVD in the US and elsewhere.)

Peterson’s first film in Hollywood was the 1984 fantasy adventure “The Never Ending Story,” which he directed and co-wrote. The story focuses on a boy in our reality and the kingdom of Fantasia, which exists in a storybook. Roger Ebert wrote: “The only thing standing between Fantasia and Nothingness is the faith of a little boy named Bastian (Barrett Oliver). He discovers the kingdom in a magical bookstore, and as he begins to read the adventure between the covers, it becomes so real that the people in the story know about Bastian. The idea of ​​a story within a story is a nice touch in The Never Ending Story. Another idea is that a child’s faith is able to change destiny. diversity It has been called “a spectacularly experiential flight of pure imagination”, and the film has been loved by moviegoers and home video watchers since its release.

Although Peterson was successful in appealing to children, he soon graduated to films intended for adults. His next effort was “The Enemy of Mine,” about an astronaut (Dennis Quaid) who crash-lands on an alien planet and teams up with a lizard-like alien (Louie Gossett Jr.) of the same species. He was fighting to survive the harsh. the environment The film was neither well received by critics nor made any money, and in fact, Peterson did not make another film for six years.

He returned in 1991 with the mystery thriller “Shattered,” starring Tom Berenger, Bob Hoskins and Greta Scacchi. The film, centered on Berenger’s rich Dan Merrick, who suffers from amnesia after an accident that seems increasingly suspicious, offered many twists and turns, but most critics found the screenplay weak. A film like “Dushman Mera” made very little money.

Peterson made an unusual creative leap with the critically acclaimed Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire (1993). The suspenseful, well-written film starred Eastwood as a Secret Service agent who, three decades earlier, killed John F. was distressed by the experience of not being able to prevent the Kennedy assassination; John Malkovich plays an effective villain out to kill the current president. Using technology that was new and highly innovative at the time, the effects team digitally added images of Eastwood from 1960s movies to footage of JFK—but only on top of a well-directed film. Cherry was diversity Said: “Director Wolfgang Petersen expertly steers the story down its straight and narrow path, deftly engineering a battle of wills between two fiercely committed men.”

“This is my biggest experience since ‘Das Boot’,” Peterson said diversity Before the release of the film. “Working with Clint was a great experience.”

“In the Line of Fire” was Peterson’s first film to score significantly at the box office – $177 million worldwide in 1993. With both critical acclaim – the film sported a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and an impressive BO, Peterson had finally landed in Hollywood. .

The time was ripe for a movie about a killer virus, after two books on the subject hit the best-seller list, but in making 1995’s “Outbreak,” Peterson faced the fact that a killer virus Doesn’t have the visual appeal of a vampire. Or a great white shark. Thus the film, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman, featured spats on ex-spouses, hints of a conspiracy and melodrama. It wasn’t critically appreciated, but somehow the film made $190 million worldwide, so Warner Bros. had no reason to complain.

In “Air Force One” (1997), it was not the Secret Service agents protecting the president who killed the donkey but the president himself. The casting was important: Harrison Ford was still young enough to seem physically capable of taking control of the middle of a terrorist plot aboard the president’s plane while being old enough to play the seriousness of a US president. Rolling Stone said: “’Air Force One’ does not insult audiences. It is produced by a filmmaker who takes pride in thrills and packs smart fun into every frame. ” The film grossed $315 million worldwide at the box office.

Next was 2000’s “The Perfect Storm,” an adaptation of Sebastian Junger’s book about a confluence of meteorological events that spawned a positively massive hurricane off the northeast coast and the crew of a fishing vessel, who that was played by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Others, who were caught in the middle of the storm. The visual effects provided the memorable wave that drives the boat into the swamp, but the film would have been thrilling and suspenseful in any event. Critics were unimpressed, but audiences loved it to the tune of $329 million worldwide.

Peterson switched gears for his next project, “Troy,” based on Homer’s Iliad, and packed with epic-scale action — plus movie stars including Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. Critics were mostly unimpressed; diversity said: “Despite a sensationally attractive cast and a series of battle scenes performed on a grand scale, Wolfgang Petersen’s highly telescoping presentation of the Trojan War moves in fits and starts with its over-the-top action. The film had an interesting critical fan in the form of David Denby of The New Yorker, who wrote, “Hard, serious, and both exciting and tragic, the right sound combination for Homer.”

But in general, Peterson was helping to pioneer the critic-proof film — “Troy’s” grossed $497 million worldwide, most of it from overseas. (Adjusted for inflation, “Air Force One” was the director’s most successful film.)

Peterson was riding high, but his next film sunk him. “Poseidon” (2006), a major remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” that had a production budget of $160 million and generated a worldwide box office of $182 million, resulted in Time Warner incurring huge losses in one-time promotional costs. Peterson’s The last Hollywood movie.

The director seemed to be retiring at the time, but a decade later he made a film in Germany, “Vier Gegen die Bank” (Four Against the Bank), a remake of his own 1976 German TV film of the same name. was based on The 1972 novel “The Nixon Recession Caper” by Ralph Maloney. The original “told the story of four members of an exclusive country club who decide to rob a bank to solve their money problems.” The new film stars Til Schweiger.

Petersen was born in Emden, Germany. He attended the Gelehrtenschul des Johanniums in Hamburg from 1953-60. In the 1960s he directed plays at the Ernst Deutsch Theater in Hamburg. After studying theater in Berlin and Hamburg, he attended the Berlin Film and Television Academy (1966–70).

The director began making TV movies in Germany, earning his first such credit in 1965 and making TV movies continuously from 1971 to 1978. While working on the popular German TV series “Tatort” (Crime Scene), he first met and worked. Actor Jürgen Prochnow – who would appear in several of his films, including as a U-boat captain in “Das Boot.”

Peterson’s first feature film was the 1974 psychological thriller “One or the Other of Us”, starring Prochnow. Next was the 1977 black-and-white film “Die Consequences,” an adaptation of Alexander Ziegler’s autobiographical novel about same-sex love. The film was considered so radical at the time that when it first aired on German television, the Bavarian network refused to air it.

Peterson was married to German actress Ursula Sieg until they divorced in 1978.

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

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