The Radio Times logo

Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen dies aged 81

Hailed as an anti-war masterpiece, Das Boot was nominated for six Oscars.

Wolfgang Petersen.
Getty Images
Published: Wednesday, 17th August 2022 at 10:46 am

German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen has died at the age of 81, his production company has confirmed.


Petersen broke into Hollywood with his World War II masterpiece Das Boot in 1981, and went on to make the action blockbusters In the Line of Fire, Air Force One and The Perfect Storm.

He is said to have passed away peacefully after battling pancreatic cancer at his Brentwood home on Friday (12th August) "in the arms of his wife" Maria Antoinette, Deadline reported.

Petersen began his career when he attended the Film and Television Academy in Berlin from 1966 until 1970.

His first feature film, the psychological thriller One or the Other of Us, which was based on the novel Einer von uns beiden by Horst Bosetzky, premiered in 1974.

He went on to direct an adaptation of Alexander Ziegler's autobiographical novel, Die Konsequenz, in 1977.

Wolfgang Petersen clapping on stage.
Wolfgang Petersen. Getty

But it was 1981's Das Boot that was his breakthrough movie.

Starring Jürgen Prochnow as the captain of a doomed crew of German submariners during World War II, Das Boot was nominated for six Oscars, including two for Petersen for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Hailed as an anti-war masterpiece, the movie launched his career as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he went on to direct 1993 assassination thriller In the Line of Fire, featuring Clint Eastwood, 1995 suspense thriller Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, and 1997 blockbuster Air Force One.

During the 2000s, he directed oceanic disaster movie The Perfect Storm and in 2004, he directed the historical epic Troy.

Petersen’s final film, Vier gegen die Bank (Four Against the Bank), was a remake of his own 1976 German television movie of the same name that was based on Ralph Maloney's 1972 novel The Nixon Recession Caper.

Tributes have been flooding in for Petersen following the tragic news of his passing, with The Perfect Storm star Diane Lane sharing her condolences.

Lane was the female lead in the Petersen-directed movie, which also starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C Reilly.

"My heart is sad today," she said in a statement to Deadline. "Wolfgang was a big, loving soul. A natural leader via positive encouragement; dare I say, he was a spiritual channel for us, grounding truly big stories to move us all through heights and depths. Literally, just being near him made me a better actor. My sincere condolences and love to his family."


Petersen is survived by his wife Antoinette and their son, writer and director Daniel Petersen.


Sponsored content