Louis Zamperini, the war veteran, POW and Olympic athlete who will be the focus of a dramatic film later this year, died Thursday. He was 97 years old.
Zamperini was a World War II soldier who made headlines after surviving 47 days on a raft following a devastating plane crash. Things went from terrible to atrocious for Zamperini and his fellow survivors after they were picked up by the Japanese and placed in a prisoner-of-war camp. The soldier’s story was captured by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand in a book that will be adapted by Angelina Jolie for the Christmas-release movie Unbroken, starring Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini. The trailer for this harrowing drama came out earlier this year. We have it below:
Before entering the war, Louis Zamperini qualified for and competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Despite finishing eighth in the 5,000 meter distance event, he caught the eye of young Adolf Hitler, and earned the nickname "Torrance Tornado" for his swift finish in the race. This portion of his amazing career will be part of Angelina Jolie’s film, as can be witnessed in the trailer.
Angelina Jolie released a statement following Louis Zamperini’s death, saying:
"It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly."
Louis Zamperini’s death places a different spotlight on Unbroken, a movie that already harbored Oscar contentions. Universal Studios, which is backing Angelina Jolie’s second directorial effort, gave the film a prime December 25 release date to keep it in the thick of the annual Oscar race. Now it will be interesting to see what moves Jolie, O’Connell and the studio continue to make to honor the legacy of the man who will be the beating heart of this hopefully special and moving drama. You can see Jolie’s passion for the man and his story in this interview she did for NBC earlier this year:
We are anxious to see what Unbroken has to offer when it reaches theaters later this year.