Air Force One director Wolfgang Petersen dies after battle with cancer

Director Wolfgang Petersen died Friday at age 81 from pancreatic cancer, a rep confirmed to Newsweek.

German-born Petersen first won acclaim with his 1981 film Das Boot (The boat), which received six Oscar nominations. He turned the success of that film into a long Hollywood career that began with the children’s fantasy feature film The never-ending storywhich he also co-wrote.

Petersen’s diverse career continued with sci-fi films like enemy mine (with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr.) and the political action thriller In the Line of Fire (1993), starring Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich.

One of his most famous films, Air Force One, was released in 1997. The plot centered on the attempted rescue of the US President’s plane after a group of terrorists hijacked it. The box office success starred Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell and William H. Macy.

Petersen continued to direct popular films in the 2000s with The Perfect Storm (2000), a disaster film set on the high seas starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane. In 2004, his period piece Troy starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom became one of the biggest hits of the year. Poseidon in 2006 featured a well-known cast of Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss, but didn’t reach blockbuster heights like some of Petersen’s other releases.

The last film Petersen directed before his death was the 2016 crime comedy Vier gegen die Bank (Four against the bank). The film was a remake of a film he made for German television in 1976.

Wolfgang Petersen is pictured during the premiere of a film at Kino Babylon in Berlin December 16, 2015. The director of hits including ‘Air Force One’ and ‘Troy’ died on Friday at the age of 81.
Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Petersen’s first feature film was in 1974. Einer von uns beidenwhich he continued with Die Consequence in 1977. The latter dealt with homosexual themes and was met with controversy upon its release.

News of his passing broke on Tuesday, and fans quickly began posting tributes to Petersen on social media.

“Wolfgang Petersen has made great thrillers, including In the Line of Fire and Das Bootbut I will always associate it most with The never-ending story. No children’s movie has ever hit harder. Rest in power”, film and theater critic Alan Zilberman wrote on Twitter.

Another film critic, Courtney Howard, wrote that Petersen “naturally knew how to create tension, thrill, character, creativity and imagination in his films”.

“RIP Wolfgang Petersen. So many brilliant movies, but I’ll always remember him for giving us The never-ending story … A true work of art … & No children’s movie will ever hit as hard as this one, ever again”, author Mikey Walsh tweeted.

Petersen is survived by his wife Maria-Antoinette Borgel, who was by his side when he died peacefully, Petersen’s rep said. Newsweekas well as a son, Daniel Petersen, and two grandchildren.

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