Louis Zamperini, a former Olympian and World War II prisoner of war whose life is the subject of Angelina Jolie’s upcoming Australian-made sophomore directorial effort Unbroken, has passed away from pneumonia aged 97.
A bombardier whose plane crashed in shark infested waters in 1943, Zamperini and his two crewmates floated in a life raft for 47 days, drifting some 3,200 kilometres before they were eventually captured by the Japanese navy and interned in a prison camp where Zamperini was subject to the sadistic whims of a brutal overseer. Zamperini also competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a long distance runner whose talent was so impressive that Hitler request an audience with him, all of which was then documented in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, which The Coen Brothers have now adapted for the screen.
Both Zamperini’s family and Jolie have issued statements, the latter reading: “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.”
Unbroken has been gestating for 55 years and opens in theatres Christmas Day.