Universal Pictures has released a first look image from Angelina Jolie’s next directorial effort Unbroken ahead of the start of production on the film. Based on the non-fiction book by Lauren Hillenbrand, Unbroken tells the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympian and WWII bombardier whose plane crashed at sea in 1943. Zamperini and two crewmates floated adrift for 47 days and 2000 miles, eventually finding themselves caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a POW camp where Zamperini was targeted by a sadistic overseer. This image shows Jolie with the real life Zamperini, with whom she’s been meeting regularly since agreeing to direct the film.
Jack O’Connell is set to play Zamperini in the pic, with a supporting cast that includes Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alex Russell. Joel and Ethan Coen penned the recent rewrite of the screenplay and the film opens in theaters Christmas Day, 2014. Hit the jump to check out the image and a fact sheet on the production.
Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie directs and produces UNBROKEN, the epic drama of the life of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s enormously popular book.
The project has a long history at Universal Pictures, which first acquired the rights to tell Zamperini’s life story in 1957, planned as a starring vehicle for Tony Curtis as his follow-up to Spartacus.
Jolie and Zamperini, neighbors in the Hollywood Hills, have become close friends over the development of the film, as the filmmaker has listened to the war hero recount the incredible incidents of his life over many months of preparation.
Zamperini gave Jolie a golden running shoe pendant, a prize from one of his earliest races, which she will wear every day as she helms the film in Australia over the coming months.
Jack O’Connell earned the starring role and will appear as Louis Zamperini. O’Connell recently spent several afternoons meeting with Zamperini at his home to hear the man he’ll be portraying recount his incredible tale firsthand. Zamperini retains many keepsakes from his adventures in his home. Seeing Zamperini’s World War II bomber jacket, O’Connell asked permission to put it on, which Zamperini gladly gave. The jacket fit O’Connell perfectly and became one of the first moments of him inhabiting the life of this legendary hero.
UNBROKEN arrives in theaters on Christmas Day, 2014.
The film is based on “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote “Seabiscuit: An American Legend.” Universal optioned the rights to the book in December 2010.
Since being published in 2010, “Unbroken” has spent more than 145 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, 14 of those in the top position, and has sold almost 3.5 million copies worldwide. A young-adult version of the book will be published by Random House this coming spring.
“Unbroken” was named Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by Time magazine and won the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award for Nonfiction.
ANGELINA JOLIE: “It will be hard to make a film worthy of this great man. I am deeply honored to have the chance and will do all I can to bring Louie’s inspiring story to life. Everyone involved in the film shares this deep responsibility. Like all readers of Laura’s book and all people who love and admire Louie, I am a fan who has learned so much. He has made me a better person.”
LOUIS ZAMPERINI: “Angelina is a human dynamo, and I know she will tell this story in the right way. I’ve received so many letters and talked to so many people who say that Laura’s book has helped them when they were going through hard times. I believe the movie will reach even more people with that message.”