I had a sneak peek the other day at Angelina Jolie's latest directing effort---Unbroken, the powerful story of 1936 Olympic track star Lou Zamperini whose plane was shot down in the Pacific in World War 11. He survived without food and water for 47 days before washing up on a Japanese island where he was captured and tortured for two years.
Angelina took a break from the editing room to show an eight minute clip of the as-yet unfinished film to me and a small group of journalists in a screening room at Universal Studios and then talked about the problems she has had in bringing it to the screen.
The film rights were first bought by Universal Studios in 1947 for Tony Curtis to star in but nothing ever happened until Angelina Jolie stumbled across the story. “I came home and said, ‘Honey, I think there’s a story called Unbroken I’d like to direct’ and Brad said, ‘honey, that’s been around forever,’” she recalled.
|Jack O'Connell as Olympian Lou Zamperini|
“I fought for months for it and then when I found out I was going to do it, but I didn’t know if we would get the money together and find the right actor, because I really wanted somebody who was just right for Louis and not just a celebrity that would green light it.”
Angelina chose relatively unknown British actor Jack O’Connell for the gruelling role and filmed the story in Australia.
When she finally received the go-ahead she told Brad to go up on the roof of their home and wave an American flag to indicate to Zamperini, who lived just a few houses up the hill, that they would be filming his story.
Sadly for her Zamperini died on July 2 aged 97 but not before she was able to take her laptop to him in hospital and show him a rough draft of the movie.
"It was a very heavy, very emotional journey for all of us working on the movie because we were moved by his story, we learned from his life and we had this opportunity to really get to know him and walk in his footsteps,” she said.
“We would speak to him all the time and Jack O’Connell spent a lot of time with him and he was a mentor, a friend and a father in many ways to all of us. He was a great man, really, truly. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I met mine and he was extraordinary."