When “The NeverEnding Story” first got greenlit, German director Helmut Dietl was set to tell Bastian’s story. He had previously worked on a few German television series but had yet to take on something of this caliber. Wolfgang Petersen explained Dietl’s hesitancy to continue directing “The NeverEnding Story” for Entertainment Weekly’s oral history of the film. “[Dietl] was a very, very good director in Germany but he mostly did small films and comedies, which he was great at,” said Petersen, continuing, “By the time they started building creatures, he realized the film was too much for him. He was overwhelmed. He knew this was not his world.” In fact, Dietl was so aware of the fact that he was not the one to tell Bastian and Atreyu’s (Noah Hathaway) story that he even helped the movie’s producer, Bernd Eichinger, call up Petersen to convince him to take over.
“After three grueling years working on ‘Das Boot,’ I was available and looking for something different to work on. ‘Das Boot’ was a tough, tough movie to make. From the story point-of-view, it was very dark, and emotional material. My son, at that time, was around 10 years old or so and he didn’t care for ‘Das Boot’ very much. As a father, I wanted to do something that my son would be really interested in and that he could be proud of.”
So, as fate would have it, the call from Dietl and Eichinger came at the perfect time. Petersen was eager to take the job, saying, “I knew this was what I was looking for.” And thank goodness he did. Because of him, “The NeverEnding Story” really will continue on for many more years to come.