Das Boot and Air Force One director Wolfgang Petersen dies aged 81

German director Wolfgang Petersen, known for the World War Two submarine epic Das Boot and Air Force One, has died aged 81.

The filmmaker died on Friday at his home in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Brentwood after a battle with pancreatic cancer, said representative Michelle Bega.

His 1982 breakthrough, Das Boot, chronicled the intense claustrophobia of life aboard a doomed German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jurgen Prochnow as the submarine's commander.

The 149-minute film, heralded as an anti-war masterpiece, was nominated for six Oscars and was the then most expensive movie in German film history.

Petersen's films featured Hollywood stars including Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Harrison Ford and Rene Russo.

Das Boot launched Petersen as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he became one of the top makers of action adventure films including 1993's In The Line Of Fire with Clint Eastwood as a secret service agent charged with protecting the president. that was followed by the 1995 Ebola virus-inspired Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman.

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Petersen returned to the presidency in 1997's Air Force One.

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Harrison Ford starred as a president forced into a fight with terrorists who hijack Air Force One. The film was a hit making $315 million (£260m) at the global box office.

Image: Brad Pitt and Petersen in 2004. Pic: AP
Das Boot
Image: Das Boot

Petersen's 2000 film, The Perfect Storm, based on the true-life tale of a Massachusetts fishing boat lost at sea, featured George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and a 100ft computer-generated wave.


With a budget of $120 million, the film made $328.7 million.

For Peterson, who grew up on the northern coast of Germany, the sea long held his fascination.

Other films by Petersen include The NeverEnding Story and Troy with Brad Pitt.

Harrison Ford and Wolfgang Petersen during the premiere of their new movie 'Air Force One' in 1997. Pic: AP
Image: Harrison Ford and Petersen at Air Force One premiere in 1997. Pic: AP

Born in 1941, the filmmaker recalled as a child running alongside American ships as they threw down food.

In the confusion of post-war Germany, Petersen – who started out in theatre before attending Berlin's Film and Television Academy in the late 1960s – gravitated toward Hollywood films with clear clashes of good and evil.

He was first married to German actress Ursula Sieg. When they divorced in 1978, he married Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German script supervisor and assistant director.

He is survived by Borgel, son Daniel Petersen and two grandchildren.

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