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Wolfgang Petersen

Born in Emden, Germany, Wolfgang Petersen began directing stage productions at age 21 while still an acting student at Hamburg's Ernst Deutsch Theatre. Eventually deciding to focus his efforts solely on directing, Petersen entered the Berlin Film and Television Academy, where he trained for four years.

In 1970, Petersen made his television directorial debut with I Will Kill You, Wolf which he followed with 6 two-hour telefeatures for the series Tatort (Crime Scene). Reifezeugnis (Final Grades), one of his shows in this series, turned newcomer Nastassja Kinski literally overnight into a star and to this day it is the most successful TV movie in the history of German television.

Among his other early successes were Smog, which won the 1975 Silver Prix Futura in Berlin, and Black and White Like Day and Night, for which he earned the award as Best Director at the Paris Film Festival in 1978.

Petersen started his feature film career winning the German National Film Prize of Best New Director for The One or the Other in 1973. He soon gained international recognition with the controversial 1977 drama The Consequence; the WWII nautical adventure Das Boot (1981), still the most successful German post-war movie today, garnering two Oscar nominations (Best Director, Best Screenplay Adaptation); The NeverEnding Story (1984), his first English-language film; the space fantasy Enemy Mine (1985), starring Louis Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid; and – after taking permanent residence in the United States – the suspense thriller Shattered (1991), starring Tom Berenger. In 1993, Petersen directed the critically acclaimed suspense thriller, In the Line of Fire, starring Clint Eastwood, which was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Editing). This triumph was followed by the box office hits Outbreak (1995), starring Dustin Hoffman; and Air Force One (1997), starring Harrison Ford. In 2000, Petersen returned to the water with the seafaring drama The Perfect Storm, starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. His next screen adventure took the audience 3000 years back in history to the Late Bronze Age with Troy (2004), written by David Benioff and inspired by The Iliad, Homer's timeless poem about love and war, starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom.

Petersen's last five films have grossed a total of $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2006.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Wolfgang Petersen Facts

OccupationDirector, Producer
BirthdayMarch 14, 1941 (82)
BirthplaceEmden, Germany

Selected Filmography

The Neverending Story
The Perfect Storm
In The Line Of Fire
Das Boot
Air Force One
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