Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81
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Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81

Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81

The harrowing 1981 war drama “Das Boot,” which was nominated for six Academy Awards and became one of Germany’s highest-grossing movies, was directed by Wolfgang Petersen, one of a select group of foreign filmmakers who found success in Hollywood. Wolfgang Petersen passed away on Friday at his home in the Brentwood neighbourhood of Los Angeles. He was 81.

Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81

Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81

According to Michelle Bega, a spokesperson at the Los Angeles firm Rogers & Cowan PMK, the reason was pancreatic cancer. His passing was reported on Tuesday.

A generation of filmmakers active in West Germany from the 1960s through the 1980s, Mr. Petersen was the most financially successful member. This generation’s prominent stars included Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. However, he was very well recognised in Hollywood.

Over the course of five decades, Mr. Petersen alternated between his native Germany and the US, directing 29 movies, many of which were commercial successes like the political thrillers “In the Line of Fire,” starring Clint Eastwood, and “Air Force One,” starring Harrison Ford, both of which came out in the 1990s.

He made forays into science fiction (“Troy”), fantasy (“The NeverEnding Story”), and sword-and-sandal epics (“Outbreak”) while enlisting A-list actors like George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm,” Brad Pitt in “Troy,” and Dustin Hoffman in “Outbreak.” He also had a knack for genre filmmaking; action movies were another one of his strong suits.

Despite his success in Hollywood, Mr. Petersen will most certainly be remembered for his work on the harrowing thriller “Das Boot,” about sailors on a German U-boat during World War II. Due to references in “The Simpsons” and other TV shows, the title alone—which is commonly mispronounced—has gained a certain kind of pop-cultural notoriety in the English-speaking world. “Boot” is heard exactly like the English word “boat.”

When the movie first debuted in the United States in early 1982, Janet Maslin noted in her review for The New York Times, “‘Das Boot’ isn’t just a German picture about World War II; it’s a German naval adventure epic that has already been a hit in West Germany.”

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Wolfgang Petersen, Director of ‘Das Boot,’ Is Dead at 81
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