'Air Force One,' 'Das Boot' among credits for helmer

Wolfgang Petersen, whose box office tsunami with Warner Bros.’ “The Perfect Storm” capped a string of four films each more successful than the last, will receive the director of the year award at ShoWest 2001.

“Perfect Storm,” which has taken in $386 million in worldwide B.O., followed Petersen’s “Air Force One,” “Outbreak” and “In the Line of Fire.” Together, the pics have packed a box office wallop of more than $1 billion.

“I think they like me for that,” Peterson said with a chuckle. “It’s a great honor, and I’m a very happy man.”

The German-born helmer has developed a rep for undertaking difficult projects, dating from his submarine classic “Das Boot” in 1981.

“Water is very difficult to shoot,” mused Petersen, who added that the effects-laden “Perfect Storm” offered an assortment of challenges but came in on budget at $130 million.

“I learned early on to take on very challenging projects and get them together,” he said. “I like to take the audience to an experience they never had before.”

Petersen said he has purposely avoided announcing his next project because of possible disruptions from the feared actors and writers strikes. But he acknowledged an abiding interest in Antarctica thriller “Endurance.”

Adventure saga

Sony acquired rights to the Alfred Lensing bestseller “Endurance” a few years back, and Petersen said he still plans to shoot a pic based on that account of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-16 South Pole experience. “It’s one of the great adventure stories of all time,” he said.

Script tinkering continues while he mulls a possible digital video approach to the difficult shoot, said Petersen, who suggested that one or two other directing assignments may precede “Endurance.”

Helmer will receive his ShoWest honor at the tradeshow’s awards gala March 8 in Las Vegas.

“We are overjoyed to be honoring (Petersen), who has had such an exciting and winning year with ‘The Perfect Storm,’ ” said Robert Sunshine, chairman of ShoWest organizer Sunshine Group Worldwide. “From his early films to his most recent blockbuster, Wolfgang again and again proves himself to be a true artist and craftsman.”

Last year’s director of the year at ShoWest was Anthony Minghella (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”).

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