Wolfgang Petersen, Director Of The NeverEnding Story And Air Force One, Dead At 81

Falcor in the NeverEnding Story
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Director Wolfgang Petersen’s resume ran a wild gamut of projects, with impressive results earning him a name as a dependable director. Blockbusters like The NeverEnding Story and Air Force One wowed crowds young and old, which put Petersen in line for some interesting prospects throughout a very rewarding career. Today we honor those efforts, as Petersen has been reported as passing away at the age of 81. 

According to Deadline’s reporting, Wolfgang Petersen’s death occurred on Friday, with the cause being pancreatic cancer. Further details noted that Petersen’s passing took place at home, “in the arms of his wife of 50 years, Maria Antoinette.” 

Building a steady career in German TV and film, Wolfgang Petersen would land his first big hit with the 1981 World War II drama Das Boot. Six Academy Award nominations, and a tide of critical praise, would land Petersen on the map with a landmark in realistic war movies.  It would also lead to an even bigger hit: 1984’s The NeverEnding Story.  

The ‘90s would especially be fruitful for Wolfgang Petersen, as he’d land three adult drama hits in a row: Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire, Outbreak (which still stands as one of the best virus/outbreak movies), and of course the massive Harrison Ford led-ensemble hit Air Force One. For all of the hits that Petersen has landed in his career, those successes led to two movies that could have been even huger. 

For starters, a severely darker version of Batman v. Superman was in development with Wolfgang Petersen at the helm, and the headlining roles respectively played by Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Perhaps even greater than that is the fact that Petersen was part of the horse race of directors that were up for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

While neither of those projects panned out, the director’s relationship with studio Warner Bros saw him land directing duties on two more sea based films through The Perfect Storm and the all-star 2006 remake of Poseidon. The latter film would be Wolfgang Petersen’s last Hollywood blockbuster, with the 2016 German heist comedy Vier gegen die Bank being his final project. 

In a career that also included films like Enemy Mine, Shattered, and of course Brad Pitt's Troy, which has seen some favorable reappraisal as of late, Wolfgang Petersen made a name for himself by tackling a variety of stories. Never pegging himself in one genre over the other, with a couple of stops on the high seas along the way, the resume that he leaves behind is as spectacular as his skills behind the camera. We here at CinemaBlend would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wolfgang Petersen, as they navigate this time of grief and memory.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.