The German film industry is in a state of deep shock at the news that film producer Bernd Eichinger has died at the age of 61 from a heart attack during a meal with family and friends in Los Angeles on Monday evening.

“We are all shocked by the incomprehensible news,” production company Constantin Film said in a statement. “With Bernd we lose a friend and companion, one cannot put our grief and the pain into words. Bernd was the heart of Constantin Film for more than 30 years and left his mark on the film industry both nationally and internationally”.

After graduating from Munich’s Television and Film Academy in 1973, Eichinger – whose trademark was his white plimsolls - founded his first production company, Solaris Film, and began a career that was to change the course of the German film industry. His early productions brought international attention to a wave of “new German filmmakers” such as Wim Wenders (The Wrong Movement), Edgar Reitz (Zero Hour), Hans W. Geissendoerfer (The Glass Cell) and Wolfgang Petersen (The Consequence).

In 1979, he took on the running of the Munich-based production and distribution company Constantin Film, which became a leading player in the international film industry. Among his most successful international productions were: Wolfgang Petersen’s The Neverending Story, Uli Edel’s Christiane F. and Last Exit To Brooklyn, Jean Jacques Annaud’s The Name Of The Rose, Doris Doerrie’s Me & Him, Bille August’s The House of Spirits and Smilla’s Sense Of Snow.

He also co-produced the Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning Nowhere In Africa and the box-office hits Resident Evil and its sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Moreover, Eichinger had foreign language Oscar nominations for Downfall, starring Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler, and The Baader Meinhof Complex about the terror campaign of the Rote Armee Fraktion.

Eichinger leaves behind wife Katja and a daughter, the 29-year-old TV presenter Nina Eichinger.