Wolfgang Petersen, the blockbuster director of 'Das Boot,' has died.

 Wolfgang Petersen, the blockbuster director of 'Das Boot,' has died.

Actor Brad Pitt, left, and German director Wolfgang Petersen attend the international premiere of the film "Troy" on May 9, 2004 in Berlin, Germany. Petersen, the German filmmaker whose WWII submarine epic "Das Boot" launched him into a blockbuster Hollywood career, died Friday at his Brentwood home after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81. 

Wolfgang Petersen, the German filmmaker whose WWII submarine epic "Das Boot" launched him into a blockbuster Hollywood career that includes "In the Line of Fire," "Air Force One," and "The Perfect Storm," has died. He was 81.

According to spokesperson Michelle Bega, Petersen died Friday at his home in the Los Angeles area of Brentwood after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Petersen, who was born in the northern German port city of Emden, directed two movies before his 1982 breakthrough, "Das Boot," which was at the time the most costly picture in German history. The 149-minute film (the original edit was 210 minutes) portrayed life onboard a doomed German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jürgen Prochnow as the submarine's commander.

"Das Boot," hailed as an antiwar masterpiece, was nominated for six Academy Awards, including one for Petersen's direction and his adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim's best-selling 1973 novel.

Petersen, who was born in 1941, recalls running alongside American ships as a youngster as they tossed down food. In the chaos of postwar Germany, Petersen attracted toward Hollywood pictures with obvious battles of good and evil. He began in theater before entering Berlin's Film and Television Academy in the late 1960s. John Ford was a significant influence.

In 1993, Petersen told The Los Angeles Times, "In school, they never talked about Hitler's period — they just shut it out of their brains and concentrated on reconstructing Germany." "However, we youngsters were seeking for more glamorous fantasies than reconstructing a wrecked country, so we were fully prepared when American pop culture arrived in Germany." We all grew up watching American movies, and by the age of 11, I'd determined I wanted to be a director."

"Das Boot" launched Petersen's career as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he went on to become one of the top creators of cataclysmic action adventures in films spanning war (2004's "Troy," with Brad Pitt), pandemic (the 1995 ebolavirus-inspired "Outbreak"), and other ocean-set disasters (2000's "The Perfect Storm" and 2006's "Poseidon," a remake of "The Poseidon Adventure," about

The mesmerizing 1984 film "The NeverEnding Story" was Petersen's first attempt into American filmmaking. "The NeverEnding Story," adapted from Michael Ende's novel, is about a magical book that takes its young reader into the land of Fantasia, where a malevolent entity known as the Nothing rampages.

Almost a decade later, in 1993, Petersen directed "In the Line of Fire," starring Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service agent guarding the president of the United States from John Malkovich's assassin. In it, Petersen used his considerable expertise in tension building to create a more open-air but equally tense thriller that careened across roofs and past Washington D.C. landmarks.

Eastwood considered Petersen as a director for the picture after meeting him at a dinner party hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger a few years before. Eastwood met with Petersen, reviewed his work, and hired him. "In the Line of Fire" was a huge success, making $177 million worldwide and earning three Academy Award nominations.

"There are occasionally seven-year cycles." Look at other filmmakers; they don't always have tremendous achievements. "My career had been one success after another up until 'NeverEnding Story,'" Petersen told The Associated Press in 1993. "Then I entered the turbulent international scene." I needed time to gain a feel for this job since it's no longer Germany."

The political thriller, which starred Clint Eastwood as a jaded but committed supporter of a less honorable president, was a criticism of Washington, according to Petersen.

"I think his comments will connect for many people when John's character says, 'Nothing they told me was real, and there's nothing left worth fighting for,'" Petersen told The Los Angeles Times. "The picture is based on a deep pessimism about what has sadly occurred to our country in the previous 30 years." Look around – corruption abounds, and there's little to celebrate."

Following "Outbreak," in which he co-starred with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman, Petersen returned to the presidency in 1997′s "Air Force One." Harrison Ford played a president who is compelled to confront terrorists who kidnap Air Force One.

"Air Force One," with $315 million in global box office, was also a smash, but Petersen opted for something greater with "The Perfect Storm," the true-life story of a Massachusetts fishing boat lost at sea, in 2000. The film's major feature was a 100-foot computer-generated wave, which starred George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. "The Perfect Storm" grossed $328.7 million against a budget of $120 million.

Peterson, who grew up on Germany's northern shore, has always been fascinated by the water.

"Water has incredible power," Petersen noted in a 2009 interview. "As a youngster, I was always amazed at how strong it is, all the damage the water could do when it just changed within a few of hours and slammed into the coast."

Petersen followed "The Perfect Storm" with "Troy," a vast epic based on Homer's Iliad that received mixed reviews but grossed about $500 million worldwide. Petersen's final Hollywood picture was the big-budget fiasco "Poseidon," a high-priced flop for Warner Bros. His final picture was "Four Against the Bank," a German film that was a remake of Petersen's original 1976 German TV feature.

Petersen was formerly married to Ursula Sieg, a German actress. He married Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German script supervisor and assistant director, after they separated in 1978. Borgel, son Daniel Petersen, and two grandkids survive him.

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