NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw recently interviewed 97-year-old Louis Zamperini and Angelina Jolie, director of the upcoming film about the World War II veteran's life, "Unbroken."
Louis Zamperini tied the World Record for the 5,000 meter run in the Olympic trials of 1936. Though he did not medal at the Games in Berlin, Zamperini was requested to meet Adolph Hitler after finishing his race with a 56-second lap. "The boy with the fast finish," Hitler said to the Olympian, touching his hand. Zamperini later became a pilot in the United States Air Corps, and his plane crashed during World War II.
After drifting at sea for over one month, Zamperini was captured by an enemy ship and became a prisoner of war for two years in Japan. He was tortured, but left alive. After returning home as a hero, Zamperini struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and drank heavily to relieve his pain.
Zamperini came to Christ after hearing Billy Graham preach in Los Angeles, and later became a missionary to Japan; he has lead an incredible life of perseverance, hope, and forgiveness.
Angelina Jolie says she had been searching for another film to direct, and knew that she wanted to film "Unbroken" after learning of Zamperini's amazing spirit. "[The script] had to be something I would love and care about, because [directing] takes much more time away from your family and much more effort than acting," she told Brokaw in the interview.
The movie's script is based on the New York Times Bestseller book, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand. "I was so moved by Louie Zamperini's heroic story, I immediately began to fight for the opportunity to make this film," Jolie said.
After receiving word that Universal Pictures wanted her to direct the film, Jolie set out to meet Zamperini in person. As it would turn out, he lives in her same Hollywood neighborhood. Jolie laughs that all the while she had been pondering, "What am I supposed to be doing with my life, I want to do something important ... I want to connect, I need some help, I need some guidance," and little did she know, Zamperini was right outside her window.
The two have since become quite close, and Jolie says that her role as a director has become much more personal. Jolie says she feels she has "Such a huge responsibility to get [the story] right, because I love [Zamperini] so much, and because he's helped me so much in my life."
When asked what she hopes the audience will take away from the film, Jolie said, "For my children and for everybody in the room, I want to be able to say, 'It can seem dark and it can seem hopeless and it can seem very overwhelming, but the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is an extraordinary thing.'"
Zamperini's testimony exalts Jesus Christ for saving him from his sins and for giving him a living hope. While Jolie has not said much about her religion, it was reported that the actress' response to the question, "Is there a God?" was:
"For some people. I hope so, for them. For the people who believe in it, I hope so. There doesn't need to be a God for me. There's something in people that's spiritual, that's godlike. I don't feel like doing things just because people say things, but I also don't really know if it's better to just not believe in anything, either."
Jolie is reportedly raising her Cambodian son Maddox Buddhist, though her personal beliefs are not widely known. Hopefully Jolie will come to Christ as she witnesses Louis' testimony and character firsthand.
"Unbroken" is scheduled to be released in theatres on Christmas Day 2014.