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Angelina Jolie has made some major headway on her sophomore directorial effort, Unbroken, today having put in place two key elements of the production. Universal Pictures has officially placed the film on their release calendar, dating it for Christmas Day 2014, according to Deadline, and Variety is reporting that the director has selected British actor Jack O'Connell to play the lead in the film.
Based on the Laura Hillenbrand book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” the film tells the true story of track star Lou Zamperini. After a successful running career in high school that led to placement on the United States track and field team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he enlisted the in the Air Force. In 1943 his plane went down in the Pacific Ocean - but that was only the start of his problems. He spent 47 days in the water enduring shark attacks and living without food and water, and after washing ashore in Japan he was held as a prisoner of war for two years. Much like Jolie's first film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, it doesn't sound like this is going to be a very "happy" film.
O'Connell tested for the part and beat out names like Dane DeHaan and Alexander Dreymon. The star has experience both on the big and the small screen, both starring British shows like Skins and The Runaway as well as Daniel Barber's Harry Brown with Michael Caine. Next year he will be seen among the battling Greeks and Persians in Noam Murro's 300: Rise of an Empire. Originally the studio was looking for a more well-established star, like Aaron Taylor- Johnson or Joseph Gordon Levitt, but they decided to screen test for the part instead due to budget concerns.
The project has had a long history at Universal, as the studio actually purchased the life rights to Zamperini all the way back in 1957. Early drafts of the script were penned by William Nicholson (Gladiator) and Richard LaGravenese (Behind the Candelabra), but giving the project even more credibility is the fact that Joel and Ethan Coen did the most recent pass.
In addition to getting ready to direct what will probably a contender during next year's Oscar race, Jolie has kept busy filming Disney's Maleficent, in which she plays the legendary Sleeping Beauty villain. She will also once again be lending her voice to Tigress in Kung Fu Panda 3, and could return as CIA Agent Evelyn Salt in the sequel Salt 2.
Even though the release date is nearly a full year and a half away, Christmas 2014 is already an incredibly packed schedule. Sony previously scheduled their remake of Annie, starring Willow Smith, on the holiday, and both Disney and Fox have made the date home for the musical fairy tale Into The Woods and the sequel Night at the Museum 3. Production on Unbroken is scheduled to start this September.