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Helmer works two ships

'Endurance' on the horizon

After coming to Hollywood in the wake of his success with 1981 German U-boat actioner “Das Boot,” Wolfgang Petersen spent three years trying to get his next project off the ground.

“I was running around, but nothing really worked,” he says. “I’ll never forget that.”

The frustration of that creative limbo is a thorn in Petersen’s side today, pushing him to keep his career going at full throttle.

“I want to work forever and use this momentum,” he says. “That’s probably what drives me.”

Petersen doesn’t know what his next film will be, but barring a strike, he hopes to start shooting by the summer or fall. Eventually, he plans to helm “Endurance,” an adventure pic based on Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1916 South Pole saga, but the script isn’t ready yet.

“It needs one more pass,” he says. “It’s getting close after a few years.”

Although his next directorial step isn’t clear, it’s not for a lack of possibilities. Having recently signed a first-look deal with Warner Bros., Petersen just moved his shingle, Radiant Prods., to the lot and is developing several projects.

“I hope I can do the first one here at Warner Bros.,” he says. “But you’d like to get two or three projects into development on the lot because you never know what will get going first.”

As a producer, Petersen is working in both film and television. After forming a five-year joint venture with Germany’s Advanced Medien, called Red Cliff Prods., he expects its first film, “Fear Itself,” a thriller with Ralph Fiennes, to begin shooting soon. Red Cliff has eight projects in development.

Picking up the tab

“Now I’m in a position to buy material myself without going to a studio,” he says.

On the small screen, Radiant Television has a deal with CBS, and Petersen’s debut as a TV producer, a pilot based on the CIA called “The Agency,” should start shooting this month. Also in the hopper for CBS is a one-hour family dramedy based on Art Buchwald’s novel “Stella in Heaven.”

In addition, Petersen is working on a pilot for HBO, “Ward Seven,” a drama that deals with a hospital paraplegic ward. And despite having done two nautical epics already — “Boot” and “The Perfect Storm” — Petersen hasn’t had his full of the sea.

“I basically grew up on the water in the north of Germany, so I feel close to it,” he says. “‘Perfect Storm’ might not be the last one.”

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