German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen, whose World War II submarine epic “Das Boot” propelled him into a blockbuster Hollywood career, which included the films “In the Line of Fire”, “Air Force One” and “The Perfect Storm” . He was 81 years old.
Representative Michelle Bega said Peterson died Friday at her home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood.
Petersen, born in Emden, Germany, made two features before his 1982 breakthrough, “Das Boot.” Then the most expensive film in German film history, the 149-minute “Das Boot” (the original cut lasted 210 minutes) chronicled the acute claustrophobia of life on a wrecked German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jürgen Prochno as submarine commander. Declared as an anti-war masterpiece, “Das Boot” was nominated for six Oscars, including Peterson’s directorial debut and his adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s best-selling 1973 novel.
For Petersen, who grew up on the northern coast of Germany, the sea long held his fascination. He will return in the 2000 disaster film, “The Perfect Storm,” the true-life story of a fishing boat lost at sea.
“The power of water is incredible,” Peterson said in a 2009 interview. “I was always impressed as a kid by how strong it is, how much damage water can do when it turns over within just a few hours, and breaks off the shore.”
“Das Boot” launched Peterson as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he was involved in war (2004’s “Troy,” with Brad Pitt), pandemics (the mass holocaust spanning the 1995 Ebolavirus-induced “outbreak”). Action Adventures of K.) and other ocean-set disasters (2006’s “Poseidon,” about the capsizing of an ocean liner).
Petersen’s family consists of his second wife, Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German script supervisor and assistant director, whom he married in 1978, their son Daniel Petersen and two grandchildren.