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Wolfgang Petersen, ‘Air Force One’ and ‘Das Boot’ director, dead at 81

Academy Award-nominated director Wolfgang Petersen — who rose to fame with his German-language film “Das Boot” — has died. He was 81.

Petersen died of pancreatic cancer in the arms of his wife of 50 years, Maria Antoinette, on Friday at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, a spokesperson for the Petersen family, Michelle Bega, told The Post.

Born in Emden, Germany, Petersen began his directing career in the 1960s but gained popularity in 1981 with “Das Boot,” a World War II film that earned six Oscar nominations with two specifically for Petersen for directing and screenwriting.

Wolfgang Petersen and the writer Lothar-Günther Buchheim sit in the original replica submarine for "Das Boot" on October 17, 1979.
Wolfgang Petersen and the writer Lothar-Günther Buchheim sit in the original replica submarine for “Das Boot” on Oct. 17, 1979.
picture alliance via Getty Image
Wolfgang Petersen on the set of "Poseidon."
Wolfgang Petersen on the set of “Poseidon.”
Claudette Barius SMPSP

He would go on to make numerous action-thrillers, including “Enemy Mine,” “Shattered,” “Outbreak,” “Poseidon” and “Troy,” and he directed big-name stars such as Clint Eastwood in 1993’s “In the Line of Fire,” Harrison Ford in “Air Force One” (1997) and George Clooney in 2000’s “The Perfect Storm.” Other A-Listers with whom he worked included Brad Pitt, Renee Russo, Glenn Close, Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman.

Petersen credited the 1952 gunslinging Western “High Noon” — as well as its star, screen legend Gary Cooper — as influential on his career choice. “I think ‘High Noon’ made me want to be a director,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. 

In addition to his wife, Petersen is survived by his son Daniel and his wife Berit, as well as two grandchildren, Maja and Julien.

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