Hollywood A-Lister Angelina Jolie has decided to work on a WWII drama for her second directorial work — “Unbroken”, a film adaptation of the life of Olympic runner and WWII veteran Louis Zamperini.
Inspired by Zamperini
Louis Silvie Zamperini is an Italian-American Olympic runner and WWII veteran who lived to tell the tale of one of the most amazing and inspiring stories during the World War II.
He qualified and ran in the 1936 Olympics which was held in Berlin, Germany and had met Adolf Hitler in his stint there. When World War II broke out, Zamperini signed up in the United States Army Air Forces on September of 1941, earned a commission as a second lieutenant, was assigned in a B-24 Liberator as a bombardier and deployed in Funafuti, a small island in the Pacific.
It was during his deployment in this place that he experienced a near-fatal air crash that only left three survivors out of the 11 crews inside the plane – himself and two other comrades, the pilot Allen Phillips and one Francis McNamara.
For the next 47 days, the three of them were in a raft struggling to survive. McNamara died on sea after 33 days leaving Zamperinin and Philips. On their 47th day adrift, they reached Marshall Islands only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and sent to a POW camp in Ofuna – the said prison being for those soldiers who were not registered as POWs. There, they were severely beaten and mistreated until the war ended in August 1945. Zamperini was particularly tormented by a Japanese prison guard known for being sadistic, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.
After the war, Zamperini became a Born-Again Christian after attending a crusade by evangelist Billy Graham. He then launched a career as an inspirational Christian speaker and “forgiveness” became his favorite theme in his talks.
He had made it a point to get in touch with his WWII tormentors and visited them to let them know he had forgiven them.
It was during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan where he ran a leg for the lighting of the Olympic Torch that he tried to get in touch with his most brutal tormentor in his POW days, Watanabe. However, the latter had refused to see him.
“Unbroken”, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”, has English actor Jack O’Connell playing the lead role with co-stars Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund,Alex Russell, Jai Courtney,Finn Wittrock and John Magaro.
Universal Pictures has a long standing history with Jolie’s project as it was way back in 1957 when it acquired the rights for the retelling of Zamperini’s life.
Meanwhile, the movie’s subject is close to the actress’ heart as Zamperini is her neighbor in Hollywood Hills and over the development of the film, the two had developed a close bond with each other. Over the many months spent in preparation for the production, Jolie listened to the WWII hero’s personal accounts about the war.
The 16th of this month saw the whole crew in Moreton Bay, Australia shooting a number of challenging scenes depicting the actors adrift on sea. O’Connell, along with two other co-stars, had underwent months’ diet to appear destitute as the characters they played. It is while filming these scenes that the images released by Universal were taken.
“On set, we started to joke and say, ‘Tomorrow will be easier,’ knowing full well that on this challenging shoot, there are no easy days. Anytime it gets tough, we think of the real men who lived through this, and no one complains. In fact, we all just feel honored to be here,” Jolie stated in an email.
“Unbroken” is set to be released in December next year.
– The Rope of Silicon and Entertainment Weekly report; Additional notes from Wikipedia