Wolfgang Petersen Returns to Germany with All-Star Heist Movie

BERLIN — Wolfgang Petersen has returned to his native Germany to shoot his first feature in a decade — and his first German-language film in 30 years — with some of the country’s biggest stars.

The Warner Bros. production features Til Schweiger, Matthias Schweighoefer, Michael Bully Herbig and Jan Josef Liefers in what could end up a German “Ocean’s 11”: Four men — an aging boxer played by Schweiger, an eccentric adman with anger issues (Schweighoefer), a has-been actor (Liefers) and an investment advisor (Herbig) — lose their life savings due to the the actions of an unscrupulous bank director and together forge a plan to recoup their lost fortunes.

The film is a remake of one of the director’s earliest works, “Vier gegen die Bank,” a 1976 German TV movie produced by pubcaster ARD and based on Ralph Maloney’s 1972 novel “The Nixon Recession Caper.”

While the original focused on four formerly wealthy men who lost their fortunes and were seeking to return to the high life, the new version centers on more modest middle-class characters. “A movie about members of the 1% trying to get rich again wouldn’t work in this day and age,” Petersen said.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Monday, Petersen said he and Willi Geike, president and managing director of Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, had wanted to remake the film for a long time. The maker of such international hits as “Das Boot,” “In the Line of Fire,” “Air Force One” and “Troy,” attributed his long pause from filmmaking to economic factors and changing priorities at major studios that he said would make films like “In the Line of Fire” or “The Perfect Storm” difficult to make today, and pointed to the ubiquitous superhero pics that currently dominate studios’ long-term planning. Petersen said he was “more interested in making films for adults” and praised Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” as the kind of films he admired.

Petersen is also turning his attention to TV productions, stressing that U.S. television offered “terrific quality” fare. Petersen’s last feature film was the ill-fated “Poseidon.”

“Vier gegen die Bank” is set to begin shooting in Berlin from the end of November through February for a Christmas time release next year. “Berlin in winter is a very special time,” Petersen said, adding he was very eager to see it on film.

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