He's one of the most successful German filmmakers in Hollywood. Wolfgang Petersen, who has directed "Das Boot," "Troy" and "The NeverEnding Story," turns 75 on March 14. Now he's back in Germany for a new project.
Wolfgang Petersen's films combine solid skills with art - at least often enough to secure the northern German filmmaker a place of honor among Hollywood's foreign directors.
No other German director, apart from Roland Emmerich, has worked so successfully in the US since the end of World War II.
It all began with television, where Petersen learned the trade. At some point producers realized that the friendly young director held more promise than simply creating solid TV fare - and asked whether Petersen might be interested in filming the lengthy war novel "Das Boot" by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. He said yes, and the rest is history: "Das Boot" was a huge success at home and abroad when it was released in 1981. The German film was even nominated for six Oscars.
In 1984, Peterson completed his next film, "The NeverEnding Story" - the most expensive film in German film history back then - back home in Germany. Just a year later, he was already working for an American studio, albeit in a film studio in Munich, where he shot the sci-fi film "Enemy Mine."
Working with the Hollywood greats
Petersen's first real Hollywood movie was "Shattered," in 1991. But it was "In the Line of Fire" two years later, a movie starring Clint Eastwood as a secret service agent, that made a difference.
Top US film stars including Dustin Hoffman, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, George Clooney, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt followed Petersen's direction over the following years. He had the reputation of being a reliable worker and a nice colleague.
Petersen never made a secret of his enthusiasm for the US. He explained it probably went back to the post-war era, when Germans were so fed up and demoralized by the hoopla over Hitler. In contrast, "These Americans on their ships, well-fed and laughing, were a salvation," he once said. For him, the Americans were "representatives of a better world, rich, powerful and friendly."
"That was deeply engrained in me," he added - a gratitude still noticeable many decades after the war in his patriotic US film "Air Force One."
Petersen's last major film was the box office flop "Poseidon," released a decade ago. But now he's back in Germany with a new project.
Petersen just finished shooting a crime comedy in Berlin with Germany's four biggest male stars, Til Schweiger, Matthias Schweighöfer, Michael "Bully" Herbig and Jan Josef Liefers. With such a lineup, this remake of a project he directed 40 years ago for German TV is bound to be a box-office hit.
"Vier gegen die Bank" ("Four Against the Bank"), the story of four businessmen who want to rob a bank, is set to be released in German cinemas in December 2016.