When it comes to reflecting one's own ancestry, most of us have to settle with looking at old photographs and stories from our elders. Stephen J. Douglas, a 26-year-old barback living in Brooklyn, New York, however, recently got a chance to take that kind of personal reflection to a whole new level. It turns out that Douglas' grandfather actually played a part in the historic life of Olympian and war veteran Louis Zamperini, and when Angelina Jolie was bringing Zamperini's story to the big screen for the movie Unbroken, he was given the opportunity to play his own ancestor.
This cool bit of trivia comes courtesy of the New York Post, which had the chance to speak with Douglas about his grandfather and how he came to be featured in Unbroken's opening. According to the story, Stephen's father's father was Clarence Douglas, a flight engineer who was flying with Zamperini in a B-24 bomber when Japanese Zero fighter planes began to attack. The bomber was crucially damaged and crashed as a result of the battle, but Douglas apparently never left his gun and was able to take down "the last Japanese fighter plane that was coming for them" while suffering from shrapnel hits in his shoulder and leg.
In 2010, Stephen Douglas' dad, Tom, learned that his father's story was included in Laura Hillenbrand's book, Unbroken (on which Jolie's film is based), and contacted the publisher to provide photos. Soon enough, Tom Douglas found himself in contact with the production designer of the film adaptation, and it was in during those talks that the idea of putting Stephen Douglas in the film came about.
The story notes that Angelina Jolie loved having the legacy connection in Unbroken so much that she actually got Stephen Douglas a special gift after production on the film wrapped: a Tiffany’s Swiss Army knife that had been specially engraved with Clarence's name. The present also included a handwritten note from the director, reading, "You are wonderful in the film. You make your grandfather proud."
Apparently, being in the movie has also inspired Douglas to start pursuing more acting jobs. While he had no acting experience prior to being in Unbroken, he does hold a BFA in film and actually worked as a production assistant on Survivor and The X Factor. The New York Post adds in their piece that he is now pursuing auditions.
Unbroken is in theaters now, and has been doing quite well - actually managing to become the third best Christmas Day box office performer of all time. If you haven't seen the movie yet, but sure to be on the look out for Stephen Douglas playing his own grandfather. He'll be the one sticking to his guns.