Wolfgang Petersen, the German-born director who first wowed Hollywood with his World War II submarine epic "Das Boot," has died at the age of 81. His assistant told the press on Tuesday that Petersen passed away at his home in California, surrounded by his family, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Born in the northwestern German town of Emden in 1941, Petersen moved with his family to Hamburg in 1950 where he studied theater. After moving to Berlin as a young man, Petersen got his first stint in the director's chair by helming episodes of the long-running German crime series Tatort.
After directing several films in Germany, Petersen garnered international acclaim in 1982 with Das Boot,a anti-war tale of sailors in a German submarine during the Battle of the Atlantic. The film received multiple Academy Award nominations, with Petersen himself being nominated for his directing and his screenplay.
He followed up "Das Boot" with an English-language adaption of the German young adult novel "The NeverEnding Story," which was a box office success and widely beloved by its young audience.
Petersen moved permanently to the United States with his wife Maria in 1987, and embarked on numerous successful action movies featuring many of Hollywood's leading stars, including "Outbreak" with Dustin Hoffmann, "Air Force One" with Harrison Ford and "The Perfect Storm" with George Clooney.