The film Unbroken follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (pictured below), who survived on a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash during World War II — only to be caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a series of prisoner-of-war camps. Author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book (also called Unbroken) is the basis for the film, directed by Angelina Jolie.
When Zamperini found out that a well-known actress was going to direct the film, it required some getting used to. It wasn’t long, however, before he embraced Jolie and welcomed her into his extended family. “Angie called and said she was going to direct the movie,” Louie said. “I’d only seen her on the news because I don’t go to the movies anymore. But I knew that they called her the most beautiful girl in the world. Then she came to the house. What a doll! What a sweetheart! I saw right away she’s got not only beauty, but brains. She’s very considerate, and she has a charitable heart. I thought, ‘What else do you need?’”
Drawing her inspiration from the dear friend she’d made, Jolie (whom Louie called “Jolly”) set to work. “I made these storyboards at home, taking pictures from the Internet, gluing and taping them onto sheets of cardboard,” she offers. “Then I put them in garbage bags and hauled them to Universal, where I pitched my butt off convincing the studio I could do the job.”
The day that the studio signed of on the final script and pushed the production into overdrive was a happy one for the team, especially producer Matthew Baer, who had spent decades willing it into existence. Jolie recounts this joyful day: “Since we were neighbors who were able to see each other’s houses — from his window and my rooftop — I knew that I could stand on my roof, look through binoculars and wave to Louie … and that he could do the same from his living room. I told Louie, if we ever get a go-ahead, I’d fly the flag from my house so that he could see it and know that it happened. When I learned that the studio had finally greenlit the film, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait until I arrived home to tell Louie,” Jolie continues. “I phoned Brad, told him what happened and said, ‘You’ve got to go out on the roof and fly the USC [Louie’s alma mater] flag.’ And he did. When I got home, we called Louie and he looked out. After he did he called back and asked, ‘Is that for me?’ I said, ‘Yes. It is. We did it!’”
Unbroken is available starting March 24 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
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