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Wolfgang Petersen

Wolfgang Petersen

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: March 14, 1941 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Germany Profession: director, producer, screenwriter, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After establishing himself in his native Germany, director Wolfgang Petersen enjoyed a huge international success with the tense submarine thriller, "Das Boot" (1981), which opened the doors wide open for what proved to be a successful career making blockbuster Hollywood movies. Following "Das Boot," Petersen earned critical acclaim for his touching, but visually dynamic children's fantasy, "The Neverending Story" (1984), an American debut that trumpeted his arrival on the scene. But he failed to have another success until almost a decade later with "In the Line of Fire" (1993), a tense and well-received action thriller that benefited greatly from the cat-and-mouse between star Clint Eastwood and his onscreen tormentor John Malkovich. Following that picture's commercial success, Petersen floundered with the ill-received "Outbreak" (1995), though he bounced back with the blockbuster "Air Force One" (1997), a sometimes silly and implausible thriller that harkened back to the previous decade's action hits. Entering the next century, Petersen raised the stakes - both onscreen and with his budget - for "A Perfect Storm" (2000), a less-than-factual accounting of real-life events that struggled to recoup...

After establishing himself in his native Germany, director Wolfgang Petersen enjoyed a huge international success with the tense submarine thriller, "Das Boot" (1981), which opened the doors wide open for what proved to be a successful career making blockbuster Hollywood movies. Following "Das Boot," Petersen earned critical acclaim for his touching, but visually dynamic children's fantasy, "The Neverending Story" (1984), an American debut that trumpeted his arrival on the scene. But he failed to have another success until almost a decade later with "In the Line of Fire" (1993), a tense and well-received action thriller that benefited greatly from the cat-and-mouse between star Clint Eastwood and his onscreen tormentor John Malkovich. Following that picture's commercial success, Petersen floundered with the ill-received "Outbreak" (1995), though he bounced back with the blockbuster "Air Force One" (1997), a sometimes silly and implausible thriller that harkened back to the previous decade's action hits. Entering the next century, Petersen raised the stakes - both onscreen and with his budget - for "A Perfect Storm" (2000), a less-than-factual accounting of real-life events that struggled to recoup its financials at the box office. Following the even more bloated "Troy" (2004) and "Poseidon" (2006), Petersen had without a doubt cemented his reputation as a fine technical director who, despite his early successes, unfortunately struggled later in his career with presenting compelling characters audiences could relate to.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Poseidon (2006)
2.
  Troy (2004) Director
3.
  Perfect Storm, The (2000) Director
4.
  Air Force One (1997) Director
5.
  Outbreak (1995) Director
6.
  In the Line of Fire (1993) Director
7.
  Shattered (1991) Director
8.
  Enemy Mine (1985) Director
9.
  Neverending Story, The (1984) Director
10.
  Reifezeugnis (1982) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Day With..., A (1997)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began career as assistant director at Ernst Deutsch Theater, Hamburg; also acted
1961:
Directed first play
1970:
German TV directorial debut, "I Will Kill You, Wolf"
1971:
Directed six episodes of German series "Tatort/Crime Scene"; first met and worked with actor Jurgen Prochnow on this series
1973:
Feature directorial debut, "Einer von uns Beiden/One or the Other", the story of a student who blackmails one of his professors; won the German National Film Prize as Best New Director; Prochnow acted in picture, re-released in 1979 and picked up by Lufthansa airlines to show on its cross-Atlantic flights
1977:
First feature as a screenwriter (also director), "The Consequence", a controversial homosexual love story starring Prochnow; banned in parts of Germany
1978:
Helmed "Black and White Like Night and Days", a thriller set in the world of championship chess starring Bruno Ganz
1981:
Won international acclaim with "Das Boot", at the time the most expensive German film ever made (about $12 million); received Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominations, giving him the distinction of being the first director of a German film to receive a directing nod; scripted from the haunting memoirs of war correspondent Lothar-Gunther Buchheim; simultaneously created a five-hour epic for German TV
1984:
Helmed and co-scripted "The Neverending Story", a partly American-financed project filmed in Munich's Bavarian Studios; first English-language film
1985:
American directorial debut, "Enemy Mine" (also filmed at Bavarian Studios)
1987:
Moved to California
:
Worked on a project with Kathleen Turner that dissolved when the actress became pregnant
1991:
Directed, wrote and produced the stylish thriller "Shattered", adapted from Richard Neely's novel "The Plastic Warriors"; first association with producing partner Gail Katz (who co-produced); had planned to film this story prior to "Das Boot"
1993:
Enjoyed hit with American debut as an executive producer, "In the Line of Fire", starring Clint Eastwood; also directed; first film made with the full cooperation of the Secret Service
1995:
Directed "Outbreak", a thriller about a deadly virus running amok; despite the Ebola hysteria of that year, the picture stumbled at the box office compared with "In the Line of Fire", though it did more than make back its money; with Katz served as one of film's producers; first collaboration with German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus
1997:
Supervised the director's cut of "Das Boot", re-released theatrically to enormous acclaim; enhancement included redesigned and re-recorded sound bringing it up to digital standards of the day, as well as a restored negative, reprinted onto the improved color-rich film stock available
1997:
Had huge box-office success with the summer thriller "Air Force One"; served as one of the film's producers (as did Katz) and also directed; picture reunited him with Prochnow; second film with Ballhaus
1997:
Executive produced Jon Avnet's "Red Corner"
1999:
Executive produced Jon Turteltaub's "Instinct" and produced Chris Columbus' "Bicentennial Man"
2000:
Helmed the film adaptation of the nonfiction best-seller "The Perfect Storm"; seventh producing collaboration with Katz
:
Returned to TV as executive producer of two-part, $12 million adaptation of "The Ring", based on Wagner's "Das Niebelungenlied"
2000:
Formed Red Cliff Prods.
2001:
Served as one of the executive producers of the CBS fall drama "The Agency"
2004:
Helmed the epic "Troy," starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom
2006:
Helmed the remake of the "The Poseidon Adventure" which centers on a passenger ship that is capsized by a tidal wave
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Johanneum School: - 1953 - 1960
German Film and Television Academy: - 1966 - 1970

Notes

Petersen and Gail Katz's production company is Radiant Productions.

"I grew up in the 'fifties. The Americans came to Germany and they were like people from Mars. It was like a new vision with the most positive messages. I was a kid, 7 or 8, in Hamburg. And the American ships came in one morning and it was like a vision, like out of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'. We had no money, and these big shiny ships came in, and the troops on the ships began throwing down chewing gum and oranges and bananas. It was like gifts from heaven. I fell in love with America then and there." --Wolfgang Petersen to Bernard Weinraub in The New York Times, July 6, 1993.

"Even the thought of directing Clint [Eastwood] made me sweat. Coming from Europe, coming from Germany, I was awed by Eastwood. He's even more of a legend there than he is here. To have him say, 'We want you to direct this script' is very intimidating.

"But Clint, from the first day, said he would not interfere. And he never did. I've worked with a lot of actors and he was probably the easiest. There were no star things, no ego problems. And he has the power--he could have done that--but he never did." --Petersen in The New York Times, July 6, 1993.

"I've always aspired to work in the manner of David Lean, who had a great talent for combining the excitement of a large-scale visual experience, with very concentrrated, intimate character studies. I'm not interested in wall-to-wall action--I want to be touched and moved--but that doesn't mean the characters have to sit in the kitchen all the time and talk. This is, after all, a visual medium." --Petersen to Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1993.

On the director's cut of "Das Boot": "I always thought that even though the film version I delivered worked well it would be wonderful to one day go back and cut my own ideal version--to ask what is the best way for me to tell the story of 'Das Boot' based purley on creative rather than commercial considerations . . .

"My vision for 'Das Boot' was always to show the gritty and terrible reality of war, and to combine it with a highly entertaining story and fast-paced action style that would pull audiences into the experience of these young men out there. This cut represents my ideal version of that experience. Thanks to new technology, the film now comes even closer to revealing the shocking realities of life in a U-boat--the way it sounded, the way it felt, the way it affected people so strongly--and I think that this new cut will be even more shocking and affecting for audiences." --Petersen, quoted on dasboot.com.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Daniel Petersen. Filmmaker.

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