Skip to main content

Home Film Film News

Wolfgang Petersen, ‘Das Boot’ and ’Troy’ director, dies aged 81

The director was also known for ‘The Perfect Storm’ and beloved 1984 children's fantasy film ‘The NeverEnding Story‘

By Hollie Geraghty

Wolfgang Petersen in a 2000 interview
Wolfgang Petersen in a 2000 interview (Picture: YouTube).

Wolfgang Petersen, the German filmmaker known for films Das Boot, Air Force One and Troy, has died aged 81.

The director-writer died of pancreatic cancer at his Los Angeles home in the company of his wife on Friday (12 August), his representatives confirmed.

Peterson’s breakout film was 1982 film Das Boot, a claustrophobic drama about a German submarine patrol in World War II, which received six Oscar nominations including best director and best adapted screenplay.

He then directed the critically acclaimed 1984 children’s fantasy film The NeverEnding Story, about a boy who is drawn into the pages of an adventure storybook. It was his first English-language film.

He later broke into the Hollywood mainstream, working with Clint Eastwood on the 1993 political thriller In the Line of Fire, which was nominated for three Oscars, and Harrison Ford on the hijack drama Air Force One.

He would also venture into bigger cinematic epics, including 2000’s The Perfect Storm, 2004’s Troy starring Brad Pitt, and 2006’s Poseidon.

In a 2016 interview with German publication DW spoke about being most proud of The Perfect Storm.

“That was a concept that was very difficult to get through the studio system because it was very expensive. It was the biggest storm ever shown,” he recalled.

“We got a lot of calls from people who said, ‘Wolfgang, don’t be crazy. This can’t work. This is a summer movie, a $150 million movie. And they all die at the end? Are you nuts? Can you at least have one, like Mark Wahlberg, survive at the end?’ But we did it. Terry Semel [then chairman of Warner Bros.] said, “Don’t change a thing, Wolfgang.”

He also expressed regret at taking on Poseidon after he had been “on a roll” with a string of critically and commercially successful films. “I did all these films in a row, and each one was more successful than the one before. Five in a row. So they said, ‘Wolfgang can do anything. Just give him all the money, we’ll be fine.’ But it wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it, because it just doesn’t work like that. At some point you fail.”

Doctor Sleep and Midnight Mass director Mike Flanagan was among those to offer tributes, writing that he was “very said to hear” of the director’s passing, adding that The NeverEnding Story will always have a “very special place” in his heart.