While her first time behind the camera earned a fairly light reception, it’s not as if Angelina Jolie requires a hit to keep directorial ambitions alive. So it’s with relatively little surprise that Deadline tell us the world’s most famous woman has sealed a deal with Universal Pictures and Walden Media to helm Unbroken, a period drama which will see her adapt the non-fiction book from Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.
Well, maybe I’m being a little unfair right off the bat. Jolie, having been greatly moved by the story, is reported to have won out over a few other big-time contenders on account of a “sophisticated treatment of difficult subject matter [and] detailed take.” (Francis Lawrence was once attached to direct, but has found himself busy in the last few months.) The main story, that of Olympian and POW Louis Zamperini, is one many have tried to tell these past few decades — Deadline note that Tony Curtis wanted to star in a version after filming Spartacus, for instance — so, when Universal does it, let’s hope they really want to do it right.
Zamperini, like so many of his World War II compatriots, came of age during the Great Depression, during which he competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics — the performance was so good that even Adolf Hitler wanted to meet him — but such plans were cut short. He ended up serving in World War II, where his plane crashed over the Pacific; he and two other members managed to survive on a raft for 47 days, despite the lack of food and water being compounded by the presence of sharks.
As if this weren’t enough, the raft — upon which one of the two fellow members had already died — eventually reached the Marshall Islands, whereat they were held captive and beaten until World War II ended — nearly three years later. You can probably imagine that an awful ordeal followed — beatings, humiliation, and the constant threat of death by beheading — yet, upon carrying the torch at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, he had forgiven the main offender, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who, nevertheless, refused to meet the man. Zamperini is still alive today, and will turn 96 next month.
Quite the story, isn’t it? That, clearly, also leaves a lot of responsibility in Jolie‘s hands, but afraid she does not appear to be. Richard LaGravenese has written a draft of the screenplay, which has since been given a polish by William Nicholson and is expected to get another go from the new director herself; casting and a 2013 shoot are expected to follow promptly. I’d say now’s a good opportunity to prove some directing skills.
Is this a story worthy of film? Could Jolie be the right person to tell it?
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