Unbroken: Angelina Jolie to Shoot Biopic on Louis Zamperini in Australia
Image Credit: Flickr (Gage Skidmore)

Unbroken: Angelina Jolie to Shoot Biopic on Louis Zamperini in Australia


After going Down Under to shoot and direct the 2011 romantic drama In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie has decided to return. Yesterday Universal Pictures announced that this time the A-list actor will return to Australia to direct Unbroken. Her sophomore directorial effort, the movie will tell the extraordinary tale of the life of American Olympian, World War II prisoner of war and inspirational speaker Louis Zamperini.

Jolie has chosen to shoot the film, set for release in December 2014, in Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales (NSW) where she is reportedly now scouting for shooting locations. “This great news confirms NSW's international status as Australia's premier location for large-scale film production, and demonstrates the world-class standards of our film production industry,” said the state’s deputy premier Andrew Stoner, who added that the project will create more than 300 local jobs. The state of Queensland’s film production industry will also receive a slice of the film’s pie.

Other Hollywood successes produced in Australia include The Wolverine (starring Aussie Hugh Jackman), The Great Gatsby (Leonardo DiCarprio, Tobey McGuire), and The Lego Movie, a U.S.-Australian animated collaboration set for release in 2014.

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Jolie’s celluloid treatment of Zamperini’s arduous tale of survival in a Japanese POW camp will be based on an adaptation of the best-selling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, penned by Laura Hillenbrand. For the cinematic version, it seems an all-star team is forming. Jolie has signed on directorial duo Joel and Ethan Cohen – celebrated for directing Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, among others – to rewrite the script.

The Cohens will not struggle to make Zamperini’s account interesting. The man’s list of achievements is epic. Born the son of Italian immigrants in 1917 in Olean, New York, his first language was Italian. Targeted by bullies as a youth, he became a skilled boxer for self-defense, and was later coaxed into joining his high school’s track team by his older brother. He set a world interscholastic record for the mile (04:21.2), received an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California, and then became the youngest ever to qualify for the 5000 meters as a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, which competed in Berlin during Hitler’s rule.

Five years later, Zamperini joined the Air Force, became a second lieutenant, and was deployed as a bombardier to Funafuti, an atoll that is now part of the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. In 1943, while conducting a search for a lost aircraft and its crew, Zamperini’s plane crashed 850 miles west of Oahu. Eight aboard died; three survived – Zamperini and his crewmates Russell Allen Phillips and Francis McNamara, who died after 33 days at sea. Phillips and Zamperini managed to survive by drinking rain water and raw fish – as well as two albatrosses that they managed to capture. They dodged shark attacks, withstood Japanese bombardment by Japanese fighter pilots (which shredded their raft), and avoided capsizing in raging storms.

After 47 days at sea, the two landed at the Marshall Islands where they were immediately picked up by the Japanese Navy. At a POW camp named Ofuna they were tortured until the end of the war in August 1945. This is all just the first chapter of the amazing life of Zamperini, who will be portrayed by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire). Shooting is set to begin in the second half of October.

Variety notes that thanks to the weakening of the Australian dollar, Unbroken is one of many Hollywood projects to head Down Under. Others on the books include The Moon and the Sun, starring Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy and Chinese sensation Fan Bingbing, which will begin filming in Victoria next April.

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