Angelina Jolie Unbroken

Angelina Jolie Unbroken


Angelina Jolie Unbroken

Cast: Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney
Director: Angelina Jolie
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama

Synopsis: "A part of you still believes you can fight and survive, no matter what your mind knows. Where there's still life, there's still hope. What happens is up to God.”
"Louie Zamperini

Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis "Louie” Zamperini (Jack O'connell of '71, Starred Up) who survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash during World War II"only to be caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a series of prisoner-of-war camps.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's ("Seabiscuit: An American Legend”) enormously popular book, Unbroken brings to the big screen Louie Zamperini's unbelievable and inspiring true story about triumph over tribulation and the resilient power of the human spirit. Set against the backdrop of a world teetering on the brink of collapse in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Unbroken follows the journey of Louie from a carefree young scoundrel to a battle-weary-yet-defiant POW who becomes a beacon of hope for a nation mired in global conflict. His tale, but a single page in the voluminous story of the brothers-in-arms who fought and turned the tide of 20th-century history, is one of tragedy to triumph"epitomizing what it means to fight one's way out of darkness and into the light.

Unbroken
Release Date: Janurary 15th, 2015

Before The Production

Road to Redemption: A Brief History of Louie's Journey

"I'd made it this far and refused to give up because, all my life, I had always finished the race.”
"Louie Zamperini

When he passed away on July 2, 2014, at the age of 97, Louie Zamperini wasn't quietly mourned, he was victoriously celebrated as a true American hero. This former Olympian, whose long, incredible and inspiring life has been described as one of the greatest stories of triumph in the 20th century, lived through and beyond what most could comprehend. His tale of crippling despair trumped by indomitable will and redemption continues to serve as a message of hope for the millions who have been affected and inspired by his journey.

And it all began almost a century ago.

As a youth in Torrance, California, the youngest son of Italian immigrants, Louie was an incorrigible delinquent, breaking into homes, stealing from shops and brawling with anyone who dared challenge this untamable boy. As a teenager, with the persistent encouragement of his older brother, Pete, Louie turned his life around by channeling defiant energy into a shocking talent for running. Breaking record after record across the nation, the 19-year-old "Torrance Tornado” qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and surprised everyone whom he encountered"from his famous teammate Jesse Owens to the man who almost veered mankind toward global destruction: Adolf Hitler.

Like most young people of his generation, when World War II broke out, the young USC student who had come within seconds of breaking the four-minute mile put his dreams on hold and enlisted in the service. His military career would lead him to become an Army Air Corps bombardier, in which 2nd Lt. Zamperini embarked upon numerous missions across the Pacific"a daunting profession in which approximately 50 percent of his fellow airmen wouldn't make it through the war. In April 1943, Louie's defective B-24 Liberator, the Green Hornet, on a rescue mission in the South Pacific, suffered engine failure and crashed into the sea, killing eight of the 11 crew members upon impact.

Louie and the Green Hornet's two fellow survivors"Russell Allen "Phil” Phillips, the craft's captain, and Sgt. Francis "Mac” McNamara, its tail gunner"drifted in a six-feet-long by two-feet-wide raft in the open Pacific for many weeks. Mac managed to hang on for an incredulous 33 days"surviving seven rounds of strafings by a Japanese bomber and the omnipresent sharks that circled their vessel"before he tragically succumbed to his hunger, dehydration and exhaustion. Louie and Phil lasted for a total of 47 days, a record in the annals of history for survivors on a raft, and ultimately drifted two thousand miles to an atoll in the Marshall Islands, with the remnants of a typhoon carrying them to shore.

Just as they saw land and were beginning to float toward it, they were captured by the Japanese navy and imprisoned in the first of what would be several POW camps. During more than two years of torturous captivity, Louie"alongside his fellow prisoners"was starved, not to mention mentally and physically abused beyond comprehension. Louie was singled out by an unbalanced prison commander named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to the men as "The Bird,” for particular sadistic acts of mind games and deplorable brutality.

Louie survived these inhuman ordeals across the most severe regions of war-torn Japan before he learned, on August 20, 1945 (two weeks after the 9,000-pound bomb called "Little Boy” annihilated Hiroshima), that the Allied prisoners were free men and that the war was over. As Laura Hillenbrand writes in the definitive Louie Zamperini tale, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”: "In the midst of running, celebrating men, Louie stood on wavering legs, emaciated, sick and dripping wet. In his tired mind, two words were repeating themselves over and over: 'I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!'”

The veteran who had survived so much returned home to Southern California, but his life was forever changed. Louie was plagued by nightmares and a crippling mental disorder that would not be classified as such until decades later: PTSD. Like the countless heroes who returned from the far reaches of these cruel detention camps with night terrors alternating with waking hell, Louie found post-war life a monumental struggle. For four years after his internment, he battled crippling anxiety, alcoholism and demons that visited him every time he went to sleep.

Only after Louie and his new bride, Cynthia, heard a young pastor by the name of Rev. Billy Graham speak in September 1949 would he have a revelation of forgiveness. Embracing Christianity, he turned around a life that had come to be tortured by murderous regret. In subsequent years, Louie devoted himself to spreading the word of spirituality, fortitude and forgiveness…going so far as to travel back to Japan and making peace with the very tormentors who had starved him and beat him senseless. Only "The Bird” refused to meet with him.

Louie's story had all the makings of an unforgettable film. In fact, Universal Pictures had long been interested in his life. In 1957, the studio acquired the rights to Louie's book "Devil at My Heels.” Back then it was planned as a vehicle for Tony Curtis, but when Curtis went on to star in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus, the project was shelved before a script was drafted.

In 1998, a CBS Sports documentary on Louie's life aired on the network and breathed life back into the project. When producer Matthew Baer watched the piece, he was tremendously affected by what he saw, unknowingly embarking upon what would be a 16-year quest to get the film made. He met with Louie and his family, then brought Louie's story back to Universal Pictures, as the studio remained tied to the rights. The studio was once again interested in bringing this epic saga to the screen. Although several screenplays were commissioned at the time, no director signed on to the project.

In 2002, however, a turn of events changed everything.

Louie Zamperini and best-selling author Laura Hillenbrand's eight-year journey together began just as the author finished "Seabiscuit: An American Legend.” During her research for her first book, she kept coming across another famous Californian who was discussed as the only one who could give Seabiscuit a run for his money. She thought: "Someday, I'm going to look into this guy.” Once she had locked her copy, she wrote Louie a letter, and he wrote back.

The more they communicated, the more Hillenbrand was fascinated by what she learned about the man whose lifelong attitude was "If I can take it, I can make it,” and asked the nonagenarian if she could write her next book about him. Louie agreed, even though he had written his own story years before. His life dedicated to service, he wanted to spread the word of reconciliation as far as he could.

During their collaboration (which ultimately spanned more than 75 phone interviews and exhaustive globe-spanning research supported by approximately 400 endnotes), Hillenbrand and Zamperini agreed not to meet in person until the book was published. The author needed to envision Louie as the young troublemaker whose spirit would transform him into a hero for the ages…and the subject was busy enough with a charitable schedule and speaking engagements that seemed impossible for men half his age.

Published in 2010, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” became a runaway best-seller, spending more than 185 weeks (15 of those in the top position) on The New York Times hardcover best-seller list. The book continues to reside today on The New York Times trade paperback nonfiction best-seller list, most recently at No. 1. To date, it has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. Among its many accolades, "Unbroken” was awarded Best Nonfiction Book of the year by Time magazine, and won the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award for Biography.

After years of having Louie's amazing story turned down by other financiers, Baer, buoyed by the public's embrace of Hillenbrand's book, brought Unbroken back to Universal for consideration. The studio acquired the book in December 2010, and its success lifted plans for the project to head toward production. "Lucky Louie” would have another shot at seeing his tale developed for the big screen.

Several directors expressed interest in helming the film and, in 2011, screenwriter Richard LaGravanese was engaged to write the screenplay. Brought on board by fellow Unbroken producer Erwin Stoff, with whom he had worked on director Francis Lawrence's Water for Elephants, LaGravanese's first challenge was to figure out how to tell Louie's story and exactly which elements to include. The writer's first draft ended with Louie's post-war life, before William Nicholson took a pass at cracking the story. Nicholson's script ended with the conclusion of World War II and Louie returning home to America.

But, just as with every other major arc in Louie's storied life, it would take a bit of intervention to get the tale from screenplay to screen. And that would come when Baer sent a draft of the Nicholson script to several directors, including Louie's nearby neighbor in the Hollywood Hills: Angelina Jolie.


About The Production

Louie Meets "Jolly”: A Friendship Is Born

"The world, we'd discovered, doesn't love you like your family loves you.”
"Louie Zamperini

Angelina Jolie's first feature-film directorial effort, 2011's In the Land of Blood and Honey, came about as the natural evolution of her having written a screenplay, a private exercise that stemmed from her humanitarian work. When the possibility arose that the script, a powerful love story set against the backdrop of the 1990s conflict in Bosnia, had a chance of getting made, Angelina Jolie found that she was uncomfortable entrusting the material to anyone else because it dealt with violence against women.

"I hadn't planned on directing at all,” she relays. "I figured that one day I would stop acting and spend time at home with my kids.” As she surmises, "I ended up directing the film almost by default because I was shy to let it go anywhere else.”

The experience was truly a challenge, and immensely gratifying. In the Land of Blood and Honey was an auspicious directorial debut and received strong reviews and a Golden Globe Award Best nomination for Best Foreign Language film. It wasn't surprising that the urge to continue a career as a filmmaker persisted in Angelina Jolie, even as the subject matter of another directorial effort eluded her. "I would be lying in bed thinking I want to do something meaningful. But what was it? I needed some help, some guidance,” she gives.

Angelina Jolie was certain that she wanted to direct a film again, but wasn't at all sure what it should be. She explains: "I wanted it to be something I would love and care about because directing takes so much dedication, so much time away from your family and much more effort than acting. You have to be completely committed and fully engaged. I knew I wouldn't be any good at directing another film unless I was really moved by the subject matter and felt it was important.”

The living, breathing embodiment of the guidance Angelina Jolie sought, and of the themes and values that pique her interest"courage and endurance, the resilience of the human spirit, faith, forgiveness and redemption"turned out to be quite nearby. She found it wholly in the person of one of her neighbors, a living legend whose home, unbeknownst to her, was nearby her family's house in the Hollywood Hills.

When producer Baer introduced Angelina Jolie to the Unbroken working script in 2012, she was immediately taken by Zamperini's tale. "I was intrigued by the draft I read, but it was after I read Laura's book that I knew I wanted to direct the film,” Angelina Jolie says. "Like the millions of readers who find themselves unable to put down the book once they start it, I was drawn into the incredible story of Louie's journey and Laura's brilliant re-creation and rich documentation of pivotal events that shape the last century.

"Louie's generation came out of the Depression,” Angelina Jolie continues. "They were tough, strong, worked hard and had a sense of family and community that sustained them through tremendous adversity. When they were called on to serve their country they were such young boys, but they went. They did such a service for us, no matter how frightened they were, no matter how far from home.”

The filmmaker admits that the themes that Hillenbrand explored moved her as much as Louie's life itself did: "There's so much pain in the world. I feel that we need stories like this today"the journey of a man finding his way through darkness and into the light"stories that can help us, inspire us, show us something remarkable and make us feel positive about life.”

It was during this process of Angelina Jolie discovering Louie's story that Baer told her that Louie was her neighbor. "Louie could actually see the roof of my house from his living-room window,” she laughs. "Little did I know that he'd been right there all the time…all the while I was trying to figure out what to do next with my life.”

This confluence of events lit a fire inside of Angelina Jolie; she felt she had to helm Unbroken. But she would learn that winning this coveted directorship would not be an easy task. "I had to fight to get the job,” she shares. "I had to fight very hard, not only prove to the studio I could do it, but later, to prove it to myself. And I also had to prove it to Louie, which took some time.”

Angelina Jolie went about the task by steeping herself in Louie's story, researching all its aspects for hours on end, learning everything she could about him and his era and deciphering how to tell the story best on the screen. A sweeping historical drama that stretches from 1920s Torrance and the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the high stakes air battles of World War II was only the half of it. Jolie would need to take audiences into the terrifying ordeal of being adrift in the ocean for 47 days and then the powerful experience of a more than two-year internment as a prison of war.

When Louie found out that a well-known actress was going to direct the film, it required some getting used to. It wasn't long, however, before he embraced Angelina Jolie and welcomed her into his extended family. "Angelina Jolie called and said she was going to direct the movie,” Louie said. "I'd only seen her on the news because I don't go to the movies anymore. But I knew that they called her the most beautiful girl in the world. Then she came to the house. What a doll! What a sweetheart! I saw right away she's got not only beauty but brains. She's very considerate, and she has a charitable heart. I thought, 'What else do you need?'”

Drawing her inspiration from the dear friend she'd made, Angelina Jolie (whom Louie called "Jolly”) set to work. "I made these storyboards at home, taking pictures from the Internet, gluing and taping them onto sheets of cardboard,” she offers. "Then I put them in garbage bags and hauled them to Universal, where I pitched my butt off convincing the studio I could do the job.”

Producer Baer, who'd been the champion of Louie's story for so long and was shepherding the project, was readily convinced. "Angelina Jolie and I had a three-hour conversation on the phone about the project. She is a brilliantly creative person. I heard her passion and knew her as a filmmaker of force and will. I knew she was the person to do this.”

The studio agreed with his assessment, and allowed Angelina Jolie to develop the film further for greenlight consideration. She was overjoyed. But in reality, her work was just beginning. Angelina Jolie and Baer spent the next several months developing the screenplay, working out budgets, considering casting and locations"laying the groundwork for every aspect of production"while Jolie spent more and more time getting to know Louie and his family.

Raise the Flag: Unbroken Is Greenlit

"I've always been called 'Lucky Louie.' It's no mystery why.”
"Louie Zamperini

Since Louie's story entails an abundance of events that unfold over nearly a century, some difficult decisions had to be made about not only how to tell the story but how much of it to tell movie audiences.

The director sent a working version of the script to Joel and Ethan Coen, with whom she shares an agent and is quite friendly, to see if they'd be willing to contribute to a new draft that reflected her sensibilities. Celebrated Oscar-winning filmmakers, the Coen brothers' output reflects a compelling and particular vision; they seldom write material for other artists. But the brothers agreed that a good story is a good story, and they were intrigued by Louie's life. One of Ethan Coen's sons was a fan of the book, and Joel Coen was similarly curious. Also, the timing was right. They had just completed Inside Llewyn Davis and were available to work on the script.

Angelina Jolie felt that the filmic story should end with Louie's return from the war, believing his fascinating postwar life in California could be an entirely new movie altogether. The Coens were in agreement. "It seemed a shame not to film every aspect of Louie's life,” Angelina Jolie says, "but this is a different medium and we had to be true to that. I made charts outlining all the themes of the story"Louie's faith, athletic ability, courage and endurance"all the themes that run through Unbroken, so that even as we condensed sections we'd be sure to include the material somehow, although we couldn't document all of Louie's life.”

Working closely with Angelina Jolie and Baer, the Coens set off to streamline the story. They opened their version with a stunning battle sequence between the crew of the B-24 Super Man aircraft (Louie's home bomber prior to the Green Hornet) and Japanese Zero fighter planes over the South Pacific. Cutting back and forth from the ferocious midair gunfight to Louie's life as a wayward youth in Torrance, the story introduces the audience to the young man who was destined to become a lifelong survivor…and the family who gave him the spirit and chutzpah to handle what was to come.

The scene immediately thrusts the audience into the action and adventure of the story, as well as infuses the film with the deep sense of the spirituality that informs Hillenbrand's book and, of course, Louie's existence. The themes and issues of his life"faith, war, struggle, commitment, endurance and resilience"stand out boldly and with alacrity.

Angelina Jolie, Baer, Stoff and the studio were quite enthusiastic about the Coens' script. "What I learned from the Coen brothers,” Angelina Jolie shares, "was that what you feel when you put down Laura's book is what you need to feel when you walk out of the film.”

As this draft of the shooting script was being written, and planning for production was in its early stages, Angelina Jolie and Louie's friendship deepened. "I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Louie, who was a hero of mine,” the director shares. "I quickly understood what my generation and my children's generation could learn from his.”

That said, if anyone was a tough sell on the story of his life (and how to tell it), it was the man who'd lived it. After their time together, Louie grew to understand the vision that Angelina Jolie was developing with her core team. Finally, she had Louie's blessing. He said: "Angelina Jolie became a great part of my life. She knows what she wants and what she's doing, and I believe in her 100 percent. I have all the confidence in the world that Unbroken is going to be a great film.”

The day that the studio signed off on the final script and pushed the production into overdrive was a happy one for the team, especially producer Baer, who had spent decades willing it into existence. When the film was officially greenlit, Baer was finally able to tell Louie that after waiting 57 years, his story was officially heading toward the big screen.

The director recounts this joyful day: "Since we were neighbors who were able to see each other's houses"from his window and my rooftop"I knew that I could stand on my roof, look through binoculars and wave to Louie…and that he could do the same from his living room. I told Louie, if we ever get a go-ahead, I'd fly the flag from my house so that he could see it and know that it happened.

"When I learned that the studio had finally greenlit the film, I was so excited that I couldn't wait until I arrived home to tell Louie,” Angelina Jolie continues. "I phoned Brad, told him what happened and said, 'You've got to go out on the roof and fly the USC [Louie's alma mater] flag!' And he did. When I got home, we called Louie and he looked out. After he did he called back and asked, 'Is that for me?' I said, 'Yes. It is. We did it!'”

The director admits that she feels such a huge responsibility telling Louie's story: "It sometimes keeps me up at night, but it also inspires me and urges me on. I wanted to make this film because in the end, Louie's message is one that we all need, now more than ever. Louie was an imperfect person, one whom we and our children can look up to. He was someone who helped to remind us all what each of us is capable of: to never lose heart, to gain strength from family, to identify our fears and our pain, to define brotherhood with our fellow man, to come face-to-face with the darkness and to never, ever give up.”

As she was preparing the shoot, in addition to looking toward Louie as a source of inspiration, Angelina Jolie found support and encouragement from "Unbroken” and its author. "No filmmaker can have greater resource and inspiration than a Laura Hillenbrand book,” she shares. "Laura Hillenbrand researches meticulously and cares deeply for her subjects. That makes the reader care deeply as well. Her words are powerful and precise. She manages to capture both the grand sweep of history and the intimate details of character with equal authority. That level of talent makes her the deftest, most vivid kind of storyteller, and we were so thankful to have her book's reassuring guidance throughout the course of the film.”

Laura Hillenbrand returns Angelina Jolie's kind words. She says of the director: "Angelina Jolie's extremely bright and subtle-minded and absolutely devoted to getting it right. She wants every detail to be true.” The author recalls trying to find out, at Angelina Jolie's behest, the uniform color of a 1935 high school track-and-field team: "My heart soared at the question. It's easy to fudge things. It's hard to be devoted to doing things right. She's taken the hard path.”

Olympians and Bombardiers: Casting the Drama

"The 'greatest' generation was the hardiest generation.
We were hardy because we were all in the same boat.
Everyone pulled and helped each other.”

"Louie Zamperini

First and foremost among the casting challenges facing Angelina Jolie was discovering the film's Louie. Who would be able to embody all of the elements required of a young actor to play this extraordinary man? "It was such a very difficult task,” Angelina Jolie recounts. "We had to find somebody who not only had a physical resemblance to Louie, but someone the audience would want to go on this journey with…someone who looked like he belonged in the period of the movie and didn't look too modern.

"He also had to be someone you would believe as an Olympic athlete, someone who could survive a plane crash and the most intense deprivation, first adrift in the ocean in a raft for 47 days and then, for the remainder of the war, endure physical and mental abuse in several Japanese POW camps,” the director continues. "We had to have someone who'd be able to do all these things physically and also have a strong spirit.”

It was a daunting process, she admits. Lightning did strike, however, in the person of Jack O'Connell, a then 23-year-old British actor who made a deep impression on all involved. Jack O'Connell made his feature debut in the feted British independent film This Is England, appearing subsequently in several other low-budget features. He gained prominence with the U.K. television drama Skins and was last seen in an acclaimed and fearless performance in the prison drama Starred Up.

"At the end of his audition, when I heard his real accent, I was intrigued,” recounts Angelina Jolie. "Then I saw footage of some of the work he'd recently done and I saw this fire, a sense of someone who could understand the greater meaning of the film. When I finally met Jack O'Connell, I couldn't stop smiling because there was something about the way he carried himself, and the way he talked about his life and his family, that connected to Louie and the story. I could see that he was a fighter. I knew at 23 it might be difficult for Jack to understand and bring to life the universal themes of the story"the level of sensitivity required to understand love, loyalty, faith and forgiveness doesn't always come with a fighter. But the more we spoke, I saw that Jack understood the themes of the story and would love and respect Louie.”

For his part, the performer was certain that he was the man for the job. "I felt so excited and honored when I heard about the film and asked to audition,” Jack O'Connell relays. "I was absolutely astounded when I learned I had won the part. It is definitely the biggest honor of my life to be able to portray someone whom I have, hand on heart, no guilt in calling a legend. There's no doubt it was a big, big challenge. It's difficult to comprehend the physical and mental endurance of this man, let alone have to portray it.”

Jack O'Connell dived into his preparations, immersing himself in Louie's life and Hillenbrand's book, listening to period-specific music and watching films from the era, the very first steps in what would be an unforgettable, life-changing journey.

With the role of Louie filled, what remained was the equally important role of Louie's nemesis and chief tormentor, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the Japanese prison guard known to his subjugates as "The Bird,” whose life, according to Hillenbrand, "was consumed with forcing men into submission.” Angelina Jolie states: "I didn't want Watanabe to be someone who was a caricature of a Japanese man who speaks in broken English and glowers. The real-life character of Watanabe was intelligent and well-educated but had something imbalanced about him as a human being. He was a force to be reckoned with and, as Laura Hillenbrand describes him, was 'a beautifully crafted monster.'”

Having a performer who could play against type was crucial to Angelina Jolie. "I was convinced that when you're looking for an actor to play someone who is volatile and ruthless, you need to cast someone who is the opposite of that, a good guy,” she relays. "We were looking for a performer who could find the deeper side of villainy.” The director was searching for real presence. "There was no obvious choice, and so I had this idea: 'What about a rock star? What about someone who can walk on stage, say nothing and own it?' Most actors don't have that.” Jolie inquired about the current rock scene in Japan, asking if a talent who might be able to tackle the role existed. The name that came up was Miyavi. Word was, however, that the handsome, young, 6'2” rock musician with a devoted following had no interest in acting. Still, Angelina Jolie remained intrigued.

Feelers were sent out to Miyavi through Yoko Narahashi, a respected Japanese casting director. Narahashi had heard that Miyavi was intelligent and serious, but when she contacted him, he explained that he had never thought about appearing in a movie and didn't believe he wanted to do so. Nonetheless, Angelina Jolie traveled to Japan to see one of his performances, after which a meeting was set up. "He was magnetic, thrilling, and when we chatted, I thought he was a truly soulful person, one of the loveliest I'd ever met. He was also incredibly magnetic, and from what he said I could see a wonderful dad and husband,” Angelina Jolie commends.

Angelina Jolie was sure she had found the perfect person for the role, and offered Miyavi the part. "At first, when I heard about the movie, I didn't know anything about the story, and I didn't even know who the director was and I was not sure if I was going to do this or not,” Miyavi says. "Afterward, when I met Angie and she explained what she wants to deliver the audience throughout the story of Louie's life in this film, I changed my mind right away. I thought it would be meaningful to be a part of this project.”

Miyavi found the script impressive because it was sensitive to both the Japanese and the Americans who had lived through World War II. "To be honest, as a Japanese person I had some reservations about playing this role,” he explains. "But in talking to Angelina Jolie, I understood that she would be making a film that would be about forgiveness, a bridge between countries and cultures in conflict"one that would contribute to the understanding of different cultures. I decided to tackle this challenge, even if it meant playing a very cruel man. The more evil I become, the more dramatic the story gets.”

Next to fill came the crucial roles of Capt. Russell Allen "Phil” Phillips, the spiritual Super Man and Green Hornet B-24 pilot and Louie's best friend, and Francis "Mac” McNamara, the Green Hornet's tail gunner, both of whom survive that plane's ocean crash with Louie and are set adrift at sea with him in an open life raft. For the roles, the producers cast Domhnall Gleeson, the young star of Anna Karenina and About Time, as Phil, and the gifted young Finn Wittrock of Darren Aronofsky's Noah and Broadway's Death of a Salesman as Mac.

Garrett Hedlund of Inside Llewyn Davis and On the Road was brought aboard as Cmdr. John Fitzgerald, one of Louie's compatriots in the POW camps. As well, Australian Jai Courtney of Divergent plays Phil's co-pilot Hugh "Cup” Cuppernell, while John Magaro of My Soul to Take is the American dive-bomber pilot/opera singer Frank Tinker. Finally, Olivier Award winner Luke Treadaway of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was tasked with playing Miller, one of the British POWs.

The actors were eager to go through what was necessary for filming the intense sequences and were unstinting in praise of their director. "I was so thankful to work beside her for the entire shoot; I'd say Angie is truly inspired,” Jack O'Connell says. "She's got great leadership skills, true empathy for her cast and that makes an actor's life so much easier. She delivers notes with sensitivity in a way that makes you understand what she's after, and she is tireless. I almost took for granted how much I'd instinctively agree with what she was telling me.”

Gleeson goes further. He reflects: "Angie's with you every step of the way. But there's almost no point in talking about it, because I know when you see the film you're going to see what an extraordinary job she's done. She's a great leader, and it's so obvious she's done a great job in every aspect of the film that it will speak for itself.”

"What amazes me is that this is a very heavy story concerning a bunch of dudes,” says Wittrock, "being told by Angelina Jolie on film from a book by Laura Hillenbrand. They bring a real feminine sensitivity, a unique kind of lightness to this intensely macho world. Angelina Jolie's insight into the hearts of these characters is amazing, and working on the film was a dream.”

Portraying the immediate members of Louie's family are Italian actors Vincenzo Amato (HBO's Boardwalk Empire) as Anthony, Louie's father, and Maddalena Ischiale (upcoming Sharkskin) as Louise, Louie's mother. Australian performer Alex Russell (Chronicle) portrays Louie's older brother, Pete, while Pete and Louie's sisters, Sylvia and Virginia, are played by newcomers Talia Mano as Young Sylvia and Savannah Lamble as Teen Sylvia and Alice Roberts as Young Virginia and Sophie Dalah as Teen Virginia.

Two American youths, newcomer Cj Valleroy and The Family's John D'leo, tackle the roles of Young Louie and Young Pete. They are surrounded by a supporting cast that includes an array of international actors portraying airmen, prisoners of war, Japanese POW guards, residents of Torrance, historical figures and Olympic runners, among a cadre of others.

Torrance to the Pacific Theater: Design, Locations and Shooting

"I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self-destructive. If you hate someone, you're not hurting the person you hate, you're hurting yourself. True forgiveness is complete and total.”
"Louie Zamperini

Once Unbroken was green-lit, plans for production coalesced quickly and Angelina Jolie assembled her behind-the-scenes creative team. Clayton Townsend, an experienced line producer, joined forces with Angelina Jolie, Baer and Universal to secure a crew that includes some of the most distinguished technical and creative artists working in film today. As both an actor and director, Jolie understands what it's like to be on both sides of the camera and tried to remain open to other's ideas and present herself as the cast and crew's equal.

Eleven-time Academy Award nominee Roger Deakins, whose stunning turn as director of photography for the Coen brothers in such epics as No Country for Old Men and True Grit, not to mention his epic camera work with hailed films such as A Beautiful Mind and Skyfall, was asked to join as the cinematographer. Jon Hutman, who worked with Angelina Jolie on In the Land of Blood and Honey and The Tourist and has served as Nancy Meyers' longtime production designer on movies such as Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated, brought his signature style to the shoot. As well, Louise Frogley, whose credits include longtime work with George Clooney on such projects as Oceans 13 and The Monuments Men, not to mention her incredible designs for Iron Man 3, serves as the production's costume designer. Tim Squyres, a two-time Academy Award nominee for his work on Life of Pi and the game-changing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, edits alongside William Goldenberg, who kept audiences rapt in Zero Dark Thirty and took home an Oscar for his work on Argo.

Finally, Angelina Jolie chose composer Alexandre Desplat to create the signature sounds of Unbroken. As known for epics including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2, as he is for intimate themes, such as those found in The King's Speech and Philomena, the six-time Oscar-nominated artist was as passionate as his fellow department leads at telling Louie's story.

As the cast was being assembled, Angelina Jolie, Baer and Townsend were grappling with another important issue: where the film was going to be lensed. Says Townsend: "Reading the script, you become so invested in the characters and the story that you're not always conscious of the sweep of the tale, which is epic. There are layers upon layers of action that require marine work, as well as aviation. As for locations, several distinct places were required: small-town America circa the late 1920s, Berlin in 1936, Hawaii, the Pacific Ocean and two Japanese internment camps.

"We could hardly travel to all those places and stay within our means,” Townsend continues, "so we put our heads together trying to figure out a way to make the most of the pie that we were served. Several places were considered, including Hawaii and North Carolina. In the end, Australia seemed like the logical choice. The geographic terrain is varied and could meet our needs, there was an experienced film community upon which we could draw and a tax incentive program existed. At the same time, we could set up a production base and shoot at each of the two large studios available there.”

All agreed that Australia was the place to film Unbroken. Throughout all the intensely demanding and time-consuming activities of preproduction, Angelina Jolie and Baer stayed in close contact with Louie. It was only natural that several of the principal actors should visit Louie in Los Angeles and spend time with him before heading to Australia.

Jack O'Connell was thrilled when he learned he was going to get a chance to meet the man. "We were just two blokes 'chin wagging,' so to speak,” the actor says. "I gained priceless information from Louie about what it was like going through the experiences of his life.”

During one of Jack O'Connell's visits, the actor noticed Louie's bomber jacket. Of Louie's many keepsakes from his adventures, this jacket was something he particularly prized. Louie had the actor try it on. It fit perfectly, instantly reinforcing the bond that was springing up between the two men.

With the cast receiving Louie's blessing and the technical crew in place, production moved forward, and the team was off to Australia.

Roger Deakins' Signature Style

From his always extraordinary eye on the most thought-provoking dramas, to epics and comedies both light and dark, director of photography Roger Deakins' work is embedded in the features of all the great directors with whom he's partnered. The breadth and scope of his accomplishments can't be disputed, and there's no genre he has not done magically.

When putting together the shooting schedule for Unbroken, Angelina Jolie, Roger Deakins and their fellow filmmakers had, to put it mildly, a big undertaking at hand. It wasn't just the action. It was the quiet moments, darkness and blinding sunlight. Not to mention the water"lots and lots of water, day and night, still and turbulent water. The dramatic, intense scenes indoors and outdoors were all key to this evolving period piece.

The director discusses her experience with Roger Deakins: "I've wanted to work with Roger for quite some time now. Not just because of his matchless reputation, but because I'd been advised by numerous people about his gentle calm and confidence on sets…his ease with crew and actors alike. The complexities of the shoot required a master, and we can all agree Roger Deakins is an artist: a true genius whose contributions to filmmaking stand out as some of the most commanding in the history of cinema. We absolutely couldn't have done justice to Louie's story without him.”

Roger Deakins advises that he was attracted to the project for its myriad challenges: "What struck me was just that: the complexity of the man and his life, the journey Louie was on and how he found himself in the end. This wasn't just a traditional war survival story, but something different than any other war movie I can think of. It was more like the trials of Job. And it was true. It was hard to imagine it happening, but it did.”

The DP shares that this epic tale resonated deeply with him: "In many ways, Louie's story was similar to stories my dad told me about World War II. My dad was never captured, but the adventures he spoke about of working behind German lines in the Sahara, where he blew up German aircraft, and then being in Italy before its invasion were similar to Louie's.”

Roger Deakins says he was especially intrigued by the broad scope of the story, the different eras in which the narrative unfolded, and by the way the script depicted the clash of cultures in these periods. But what truly moved him was hearing Angelina Jolie's passion for the project and her compelling take on the story. "I had seen Angelina Jolie's first film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, and was greatly impressed by that,” he commends. "I was excited to work with her.”

The cinematographer also advises that when he and Angelina Jolie sat down to discuss their approach, they found they were in agreement. "We decided that this wasn't going to be a handheld documentary-style movie, but rather realistic, classical. That would be the best way to illustrate the detail and scope of the script. We decided we'd do wide shots with a lot of things happening in frame. That's an aspect of the kind of filming we had in mind, as opposed to a lot of cutting; we didn't want anything too stylised.”

By shooting digitally on Alexa cameras with master prime lenses with a 2:40 aspect ratio, Deakins and Jolie could immediately see what they had and feel confident about moving on. The filmmaking partners also spoke a great deal about light and dark, shadows and sunlight, which also emerged as one of the themes of Unbroken. Their shared love of Sidney Lumet's The Hill became a constant reference for them as they set up shots in the various prison camps.

Getting Stranded in the Pacific

Production of Unbroken began on October 16, 2013, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. For the first scenes, Jolie filmed emaciated and enfeebled Louie, Phil and Mac in the midst of their ordeal, now adrift in the Pacific for several weeks. Near starvation, with supplies diminished, they are ravaged by exposure to the elements and by their own private fears. "Trying to capture the isolation and desperation of being on a raft in the ocean for 47 days, wanting to show the helplessness those men must have felt, meant that we wanted to do it in an organic manner and so we decided to shoot these scenes in the ocean,” says Townsend.

Filming at sea entailed moving more than 150 people from the safety of the shore of the Queensland town of Redland Bay to many miles out to sea in the waters of Raby Bay"where to the naked eye only the horizon is visible. "Our first requirement was having a mother ship docked at sea"along with several other vessels nearby, floating pontoons and shuttle boats,”

Townsend reveals. "Not for the faint of heart, this. It was hard work, indeed, for everyone, but no one more than the actors. Throughout the day, they had to be fished out of the raft, which was buffeted by winds and bobbing in the sea, and returned to the mother ship while cameras were being repositioned,” Townsend says. "Then they'd be placed back in the raft.”

"It was fine with me,” recalls Gleeson. "Being out in the sea these first days gave you a sense of the power of the ocean and provided us with a good base for what was going to follow. Being trapped in the raft out there, we experienced both the sense of claustrophobia and also of agoraphobia of just open water as far as the eye could see. It definitely set the tone of the extraordinary nature of the story and of the challenges that were to come.”

In this location, Angelina Jolie shot a series of key scenes: the men eyeing a group of sharks circling the raft, eating a young shark they manage to catch after an exhausting struggle and frantically patching their raft after it was strafed by rounds and rounds of bullets from a Japanese Zero that stalked them from above.

Realistic and uncompromising, these scenes dramatize in precise detail just a few of the harrowing incidents the men faced as they fought for their lives day after day in the open raft. It's an experience Louie never forgot, an experience that required mental as well as physical strength. "You can't survive without your mind,” Louie said. "I made up my mind on the raft, without letting the other two know it, to occupy my mind in a positive way. I decided that every day we had to reminisce, recall songs and recite the words from memory. I decided to challenge the guys to see how far back they could remember.”

Wittrock recalls that during his preproduction visit with Louie, they discussed this very thing. Mac didn't survive the experience on the raft, and Wittrock was curious as to what Louie thought about the matter. "I asked Louie, 'What do you think the difference was between Mac and you? You endured the same conditions. How did you manage to survive?' Louie told me, 'I think of Mac as a kid who never had a chance.'”

"I thought about what Louie said as we were shooting,” reflects Wittrock. "Mac's always looking down at the sharks, where he's sure he's going to end up. Phil's always looking up at heaven and praying. And Louie…he lives in both places. I think that's part of what made him survive.”

Each day, as filming proceeded, afternoon winds blew up and waters became choppy…adding another element of difficulty to filming. Angelina Jolie and the crew persevered, stopping only when necessary for camera setups and makeup adjustments.

The makeup for the film, of which the raft sequence is only one significant part, was created by the distinguished makeup artist Toni G. She worked closely on the overall design with Angelina Jolie and with special effects makeup artist Arjen Tuiten. "We made life casts of just about every principal in the film,” says Tuiten, "not only for the scenes at sea but for those in the prison camps as well. The raft was a major undertaking for us and for the actors. We had to replicate very heavy sunburn and windburn in five distinct stages. The guys are in the middle of the ocean, and that makes the eyes puffy, and then the blisters begin. The skin becomes very textured and dried up, and lips become cracked. On top of all this, each man is emaciated. It took hours as we had to work on the men's teeth, which of course become decayed and yellow, as well as their eyes. We put in contact lenses because eyes are bloodshot.”

It was clear to all, even at this early point of production, the depth of the challenge Jolie, her cast and her crew had undertaken. "On set we started to joke, 'Tomorrow will be easier,' knowing on this challenging shoot that there are no easy days,” Angelina Jolie says. "Any time it got tough, we thought of the real men who lived through this, and no one complained. We all felt honored to be here.”

For these actors, as well as those who would portray GIs interned in the Japanese POW camps, the challenge had begun several months earlier and involved a significant sacrifice: food. They mostly had to give it up. "I think I dropped about 35 pounds in all,” says Wittrock. "I started dieting way before filming so I would look properly emaciated when the cameras rolled. In New York, where I live, I was surrounded by amazing temptations so it was very difficult. But on location we have a nutritionist, and a good cook providing meager meals, and also a trainer.”

The strict regimen actually became a factor in the bonding process for the actors: They all had to go through it and it brought them close. "I appreciated Domhnall and Finn's support,” says Jack O'Connell. "I sometimes felt like the weak link in this. The weight-loss protocol was very extreme. But, as Finn says, the meals we did have, sparse as they were, were prepared by a top-rate chef and were nourishing. To be honest, I never felt so healthy.” The actor pauses. "But I wouldn't want to have to go through this again anytime soon.”

As difficult as this training was, Gleeson is quick to point out that dieting is nothing compared with what the actual men suffered: "We had three meals a day, small ones, but meals. Sure we were hungry, but 'hungry' doesn't even give a hint, really. We obviously didn't feel their suffering and deprivation. We relied on imagination because what they went through was beyond endurance.”

Reimagining Kwajalein and Omori

Completing the work at sea, the unit moved an hour south to the Warners Studio near Australia's Gold Coast for scenes set on the raft to be filmed in the studio's tanks. From there, the company set up camp in a rain forest on Queensland's Mount Tamborine for scenes occurring on Kwajalein Island, the notorious Japanese prison camp known as "Execution Island,” a true heart of darkness.

As blank a canvas as the open sea was, designing Louie's imprisonment would offer a new set of challenges. But, as Hutman reveals, there was no cause for concern: "What I find so great about working with Angelina Jolie is that she has the whole movie in her head. She uses this as a guiding principle, but she's completely open to the input of others, collaboration and redirection. She has a great ability to absorb information and opinions on every aspect of production and funnel them into a clear and consistent vision. Her sense was that each chapter of the film should have its distinctive, unique tone and look, most especially each of the camps where Louie was imprisoned. It was my job with Angie to define the look of each of these camps so that the audience gets a sense of the real nature of Louie's extraordinary experiences.”

At Kwajalein, after their capture at sea by the Japanese navy, Louie and Phil are caged in narrow, filthy, maggot-filled cells, beaten by guards and interrogated. They're convinced they'll never escape with their lives. But the two men are inexplicably spared and then separated when Louie is shipped off to Omori, a POW camp on the outskirts of Tokyo, and Phil is hustled into a truck and sent to an unknown destination.

Louie's imprisonment at Omori constitutes the next unforgettable chapter of his journey: It's at Omori that he first encounters "The Bird,” Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the merciless Japanese prisoner commander, and suffers untold punishment at his hands.

Omori, a prototypical Japanese prison-of-war camp, was constructed for the film on the outskirts of the city of Brisbane in Fort Lytton National Park, where Hutman re-created over many acres an authentic replica of the infamous camp that was actually located in Tokyo Bay. Fort Lytton, built in 1880-1881 to protect the city of Brisbane from enemy attack, is a historic Australian landmark.

Kwajalein wasn't a POW camp; rather, it was a brutal holding and interrogation stop where Louie and Phil were sure they'd be executed. "The island prison of Kwajalein is about pouring rain and the dense green of the jungle,” says Hutman. "Omori is 'dust'"pure and simple. We were on this arid spit of land surrounded by water, but dust prevails. The bleached-out dust of the earth, the faded wood, the khaki uniforms the prisoners wear were all natural but lifeless.”

It was clear from Louie's story that Omori was a defining experience for him, and the script and subsequent design reflected that fact. "The challenge for us was to build a camp that was credible but that had a distinctive Japanese feel,” says the production designer. "Looking at photos and doing research, we built the camp from scratch so that it contained six barracks, two headquarter buildings and a large open quadrant where the prisoners could be lined up outdoors for The Bird's inspection.”

Tomo Miyaguchi, one of Unbroken's technical advisers, was a wonderful asset in the conception and re-creation of Omori. Over the years, he had amassed a wealth of information about this and other such camps. "So many documents from the war were destroyed on the Japanese side that it was not easy to research a place like Omori,” Tomo Miyaguchi says. "We had to rely on American accounts and war crimes tribunals, also books written by former POWs.” He was impressed with Hutman's efforts. "Omori looked like the actual place, a working prison camp. It was uncanny.”

At Omori, the audience becomes acquainted with Louie's fellow POWs, an international group"Cmdr. John Fitzgerald and Frank Tinker, a singer from the USA; Miller and several Scotsmen from the U.K.; and multiple Australians.

Angelina Jolie's depiction of life at Omori is stunningly realistic. She filmed the regimented, stunted, miserable routines the men endured daily. In addition to the sometimes daily beatings, the POWs"deprived of decent food and adequate medical care"were forced to participate in the rituals of a foreign culture and carry out unpleasant latrine duties designed to humiliate them. The abuse and the onerous tasks were overseen by the perverse Watanabe.

But it is Louie, first and foremost among the prisoners, who occupied The Bird's thoughts. Perhaps sensing Louie's inner strength, decency and fortitude, Watanabe fixated obsessively on him and tried to destroy him with mind games, humiliations and brutal, vicious beatings.

Miyavi, in turn, had much to do to prepare and steel himself for the role. "The first thing I did to prepare was to study how to act,” he says. "I started studying English seven years ago before my world tour as a musician, never expecting that I would appear in a Hollywood movie as an actor. The most important thing was to play the character accurately, with care and respect. He's cruel and brutal, but also a human being. I tried very hard to portray all his humanity and confusion.

"It's very tough to play this role when you think of what everyone sacrificed in this war,” Miyavi continues. "What The Bird did was not right, but it's a reflection of his sadness, loneliness…all kinds of emotions on his negative side. I understood that I had to put a real sense of humanity into my performance to show this conflict.” To get in The Bird's mind-set, the performer steered clear of others on set. "I liked and was friendly with all the actors, but during filming I would keep myself apart so that I could build up the character inside of myself with reality.”

In one of the more powerful sequences in Unbroken, Louie refused to serve as a mouthpiece for Emperor Hirohito's war machine, so The Bird forced each prisoner into a long line to punch Louie in the face. This prolonged, shocking and sadistic assault left Louie an insensate, bloody pulp from a beating that could have proven fatal for a lesser man. "I have to say this was a difficult scene,” Jack O'Connell says. "But every element and scene of the shoot was fascinating. Every day was exciting, and the excitement outweighed the anxiety.” Still, he admits he looked forward to better days to come. "When we were shooting that sequence, in my mind, I was looking forward to the scenes when Louie would be in top form.”

A very rare moment of hope at Omori stuck out to the production team: A highlight for all was when Jolie filmed a raucous version of a Cinderella skit that the prisoners wrote and performed in drag for the Christmas holiday.

After several weeks of filming and the sequences at Omori completed, the unit flew south to Sydney for scenes set at Radio Tokyo, where Louie is sent to make a broadcast to the U.S. in which he tells his family he's alive. Inside Radio Tokyo, Japanese authorities tempted Louie with delicious food and conditions of comfort in order to persuade him to participate in propaganda broadcasts extolling his Japanese captors. He refused and was returned to Omori. Louie said he understood exactly what was at stake at this moment. "There was no way I could read any propaganda against my country no matter what they tempted me with,” he said. "They understood their attempts at bribing me were futile.”

Transforming Cockatoo Island into Naoetsu

Next, the unit set up base in Sydney Harbor on Cockatoo Island, an Alcatraz-like outcropping of land that functions as a world-heritage site. The island served as a penal colony in the early 19th century, and then housed one of Australia's biggest shipyards for close to 150 years. In and about Cockatoo Island's abandoned structures, Hutman and his crew created the fiendish POW camp Naoetsu, and replicated some of the streets of the Japanese port city Yokohama.

As bad as life was for Louie and his compatriots at Omori, at Naoetsu it deteriorated even further. All of the men were forced into slave labor as the war"and certain defeat for Japan"hurtled toward its conclusion. As Laura Hillenbrand writes: "In a POW camp network that would resonate across history as a supreme example of cruelty, Naoetsu had won a special place as one of the blackest holes of the Japanese empire. Of the many hells that Louie had known in this war, this place would be the worst.”

"We all strived collaboratively to re-create this stark, dramatic place,” Hutman relays, "a place that represents physically how you can reach the limit of what you can endure and survive as a human being, then go beyond it and then have to endure it again and again. Naoetsu gives you the feeling of having traveled all the way across the world, having reached its very edge to the point where you might fall off. Angie saw Naoetsu as a place where the stakes get higher and higher. The prisoners' barracks lacked beds, the men slept on shelves stacked up against the wall, with rows of bodies also sleeping on the floor. We are, in fact, in hell.”

Technical adviser Miyaguchi walks us through a bit of the camp's history: "Naoetsu is considered one of the worst POW camps among many in Japan, a cold and windy place made even more unpleasant by lack of food and medicine and harsh winter weather.”

Daily, Louie and his fellow prisoners hauled huge baskets from coal mines and placed the contents onto ships. Weakened by starvation, smeared with coal dust that clogged nostrils, skin and lungs"which rendered the prisoners nearly invisible"the men of Naoetsu were brought to the edge of extinction. It was here that The Bird tried to wreak the ultimate revenge. He forced a weakened and exhausted Louie, who is trying to rest his injured leg, to stand, hoist and hold over his head a six-foot-long, heavy wooden plank for a prolonged period of time. Louie was advised that if he dropped the plank, a guard would shoot him.

Somehow, inner strength enabled Louie to hold high the weighty wooden object longer than would seem humanly possible. Standing with the load bearing on his emaciated body for more than a half-hour before collapsing, Louie managed a feat that enraged and resulted in a psychological defeat for The Bird.

Miyavi elaborates upon the pivotal event: "Louie gets knocked down, and then Watanabe proceeds to beat him with his kendo stick. It seems that Watanabe has won a victory over Louie, but no. Watanabe has lost. Louie has beaten him psychologically. It was a scene in which I had to show emotion in my eyes, in my heart; it was very difficult, and I had a hard time to get to that point emotionally. Angie's strength and passion were so huge to me in the scene. She understood everything I had to feel, and she was so supportive. I knew this is her mission as an artist and also our role to pass on the message to the next generation.”

Before he passed away, Louie recounted the incident vividly in all its detail. "I remember it was a two-by-six-foot-long plank made of cherry wood, like steel,” he said. "I remember holding it for 10 minutes, but then I don't remember anything. One of the prisoners timed it, an English guy. He said it was 37 minutes.”

Louie's endurance made a big impression on the man who portrays him on screen. "It was superhuman strength from someone who was denied his humanity by this man,” reflects O'Connell. "It was probably the most intense and challenging moment of the entire film, one that's filled with such moments. I asked Louie what he focused on in that moment.

'Determination,' he said. 'Life. The simple fact that you don't want to die.'”

For cinematographer Deakins, shooting Naoetsu was simply one challenge in a continuing line of extraordinary sequences in Unbroken. The scenes here were a case in point of his signature style. Deakins emphasizes, however, that he shot these sequences no differently from those that occur in earlier periods"Louie's youth in Torrance or, say, those at the Berlin Olympics. "Trying to differentiate time periods, the idea that the past is golden and the future is something else, and so you put on a few filters, is bogus,” Deakins says. "With a story like this, and for any film, what you want is for the audience to be immersed in it, not taken out of it through some visual device, something that distances you from the subject. You want the audience to feel that they could be standing there actually looking at what's happening.

"At Naoetsu, the coal dust, the blackness and sense of darkness, the dank atmosphere, or, at Omori, the feeling of relentless sun, of life being removed and bleached out of everything, all come through production design, makeup, direction, performance,” Deakins continues. "Angie's the kind of director who gives the actors their space and they deliver. I didn't want to impose on what they were doing…but rather record it.”

One particular element that did play an important part at Naoetsu, aside from the rough, unforgiving nature of the location itself, was light, depending upon the time and the amount available for each scene and the best use of it. This was a major issue for the filmmakers when shooting the sequence of Louie hoisting the wooden plank over his head.

For this scene, Roger Deakins and Angelina Jolie believed that it would be better to have the light on Louie's eyes looking up at the sun behind The Bird, almost as a silhouette as The Bird is standing over Louie. "In order to do that, we shot it in the late afternoon when the window of opportunity is brief, but we were able to get what we wanted,” says Roger Deakins. "The reality of shooting a film on schedule within a budget is just to do what you can to find the best expression of the story with the material you have. If suddenly a shadow made by the sun seems to express something meaningful, you make use of it. Otherwise, you let it go. Most important to the film are the characters, the story and the feeling.”

Additionally, important scenes depicting the end of the war were also shot at Naoetsu: the announcement by Cmdr. Fitzgerald of the cessation of hostilities, followed by the harrowing walk to the river where the prisoners, expecting to be executed, experienced the cleansing and revivifying effects of the water. As well, the crew filmed the U.S. airdrop over the camp of food, treats, smokes and leaflets.

Hedlund sums the experience of the actors chosen to portray these Allied heroes as he reflects on his character: "Fitzgerald was a true leader and it was an honor for me to portray him. He'd been tortured, beaten and clubbed; his fingernails were torn out. After the war, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, as well as the Silver Star. He seemed to epitomize that World War II generation, the 'Don't Talk about It' generation. My grandfather fought in the Philippines during the war, and when he came back to Minnesota and worked on the farm, he never talked about what he'd been through. Just like Fitzgerald.”

These scenes at both prison camps, as well those on the open raft at sea, represent filmmaking that demands the utmost in stamina, heart, ability, talent and commitment from both cast and crew. It didn't go unnoticed by the producers. "The actors had so many challenges in addition to all the physical requirements,” says Baer. "Angelina Jolie holds herself to the highest of standards and holds the actors to those same standards. Each and every one rose to the occasion, making a remarkable experience for everyone, never more so than at these locations.”

Angelina Jolie reflects on what the experience re-creating the camps meant to her: "War sometimes brings out the best in people when they take from each other, when they remember what they're fighting for but retain their humanity, and even go out of their way to save someone. It can also bring out the ugliest side of human nature. The actors and I discussed this, studied this together. At Naoetsu and Omori, it was a beautiful thing to see all the Japanese actors coming together with the American and Australian actors, becoming great friends, talking about life and seeing how much they had in common and learning about each other's culture. We all learned a lot.”

Running across Torrance and Berlin

After completing the sequences at Naoetsu, the company moved briefly to the town of Camden, an hour west of Sydney, to film scenes from Louie's youth. These scenes entailed Louie trying out for the Torrance High School track team, as well as interacting with the young spectators.

Interiors of the Zamperini home were shot at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, after which the unit traveled northwest by plane to the small town of Tamworth, New South Wales, to film in the nearby community of Werris Creek, population 1,500. For scenes from Louie's troubled adolescence, Werris Creek would double for 1920s Torrance. Hutman explains what was offered: "These towns, Werris Creek and Camden, gave us not only a feeling of period but a sense of landscape, open space and sky, which added to the authenticity and the atmosphere.”

Werris Creek also provided the filmmakers with a period railroad station and Pullman train cars, ones easily transformed into Southern Pacific rail cars of the era. Small Craftsman-style bungalows resembling those built all over California in the '20s were plentiful in Werris Creek, and the crew found the perfect example to stand in for the Zamperini family home.

After a holiday hiatus, the unit started up again in Sydney, filming at a sports complex in the suburban community of Blacktown. Here, Angelina Jolie staged a sequence in which Louie runs in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and makes an extraordinary impression on all the spectators, including Adolf Hitler, who asks to be introduced to "the boy with the fast finish.”

Angelina Jolie wanted these scenes, as all the others in the film, to be imbued with an authentic tone that would communicate a vivid sense of time and place. This was never more true than with Louise Frogley's costume designs. "The colors we used for the clothes were creams, pale yellows, beige and ochre. These are very muted colors that give a feeling of that time,” says Frogley. "We wanted a similar authentic feeling for the Berlin Olympics, and in order to differentiate these periods, we used clothes for Berlin that were more patterned and stylised.”

A good deal of the period clothes used came from rental houses, and Frogley's team also designed clothes from the period. She relays: "In designing and creating the clothes for, say, the Zamperini family, you have to use your imagination, think about how the characters lived, what they ate, if they owned a car, and so on. You want to make clothes that make sense in the context of their lives.”

Bodies in the early 20th century developed in a different way than they do today, and Frogley's team had to show that. Fortunately, the actors took that into account and inhabited their clothes as much as their characters. CJ Valleroy, who played Young Louie, was also intrigued by the nature of period costumes. "The clothes from those days are really different,” he says. "Kids pulled their pants up high, tightened their belts, cinching everything in. They wore shorts and lace-up boots. I spent a lot of time in the outfits to get used to them.”

Frogley used similar guidelines when designing and coordinating the military costumes for the film. Working closely with the late Joe Hobbs a military uniform expert who died unexpectedly during production, she strived with Hobbs' help for a vivid verisimilitude in the military clothing. "We see Australian forces, American soldiers and flyers, Japanese military and prisoners of war,” she offers. "Joe Hobbs was able to find so many original pieces that we used in the film. When necessary, we manufactured the military garb. But even with uniforms, we always took character into account.”

The costume designer explains that soldiers seldom wear their uniforms according to regulation, and they always add personal touches: "In addition to aging everything appropriately, working with the cast we added individual touches not only to costumes for principals but also for extras. We also made these costumes a size too big for everyone so that the actors and extras, all of whom were terribly thin anyway, would look as if they were swimming in their clothes.”

The running sequences at Blacktown were an immense challenge for the cast, not only because of the physical exertion required, but because of the footwear the runners had to wear"spiked shoes from the '20s and '30s. These shoes have little in common with the sophisticated, ergonomically engineered athletic sneakers people are familiar with today.

"We copied Louie's actual shoes as closely as we could for these scenes and had them made in Mexico,” Frogley offers. "Basically, they're like ballerina flats with no heels and spikes in front. We also had them constructed with different levels of spikes because running in the shoes with the long spikes people used then for push off would be brutal today. We used the shoes with long spikes only for close-ups.”

"It took me awhile to get used to running in the spike shoes,” says Valleroy. "I'm on my high-school track team, and I do cross-country running. But this was harder. I also had to learn to run with a straight chest and proper arms, and also learn how to push off for a faster sprint.”

Greg Smith, the running coach who trained the cast for these scenes, was prepared for these difficulties. "These are sprint shoes built for running races of 100, 200 and up to 1,500 meters. The shoes build up pressure in the calf muscles and the hamstrings. Runners in the '20s and '30s were stronger in the lower body than they are today. They were tradesmen, laborers who had incredible core strength, and the figuration of their bodies was different. They ran in an upright position. Today, runners are a lot taller and there's a lot more moving forward, almost leaning over. After a day of running in those shoes, some of the guys were quite sore.

Angelina Jolie requested that the running scenes look completely authentic so that if people from the era could look at the runners, they would remark, "That's exactly the way we did it!” Smith says he was pleased with the film's athletes, many of whom were real runners recruited from several of Sydney's athletic clubs. He had particular praise for both Louies"CJ and Jack. "They were great, naturals. They worked hard and looked perfect.”

"I enjoyed the running scenes, but I had a nice head start,” says Jack O'Connell. "I was always fit, boxing and playing football, so running for the camera came naturally. I did have to learn to adopt Louie's style of running. When we began these scenes, I was out of shape because I was still recovering from being emaciated. I did it in stages, moving from the emaciated phase to the prison phase to my more actual self.”

For Angelina Jolie, the running sequences offered another valuable lesson. She shares: "Louie didn't win at the Olympics, but he pushed himself hard, refused to fail and showed what he could do at the last, fastest lap of the race. What made the people stand up in Berlin was because they saw someone fight. It wasn't about winning. It was about trying really hard, not giving up.”

"Unbroken is a story people can learn from, kids my age, especially,” Valleroy concludes. "The story teaches you that no matter what happens, you should never give up. That's a great lesson. Louie was a troublemaker as a kid. He was always getting into a jam with the cops, with his father. But he grew up into a great man, a hero. I like that.”

Super Man and Green Hornet: Flying and Crashing B-24s

"Never give up, no matter what. Even if you get to last place, finish.”
"Louie Zamperini

Running scenes completed, the unit journeyed north again to the Gold Coast in Queensland, and the Warner Australia Studio soundstages to depict the ferocious air battle between the U.S. Army Air Forces B-24 Super Man aircraft and the Japanese Zero aircrafts that opens the film. Next would be the fatal air crash of the Green Hornet that only Louie, Phil and Mac survived.

For the plane set, Roger Deakins created a wrapped lighting setup around the plane that allowed Angelina Jolie and her team to put the camera where they wanted. "Those sequences entailed a great deal, and there was worry about getting them done in the time that we had,” Angelina Jolie reveals. "We never would have gotten them done within our schedule if Roger Deakins hadn't thought up that lighting scheme. We continued to work together throughout the post, and he's given the editors and me so much valuable feedback.”

The Super Man airplane assembled on the huge soundstage was constructed in Mexico and shipped to Australia, where it was outfitted with essential items, such as a Martin upper turret and a Norden bombsight. The plane was then mounted on a gimbal, a device that would simulate the actual movements of the crashing craft, most notably when it came under fire.

The crew of the Super Man included two pilots, a navigator, a bombardier, a radio operator and various gunners, all of whom Angelina Jolie cast carefully. Among the crew were Hugh "Cup” Cuppernell, Phil's co-pilot, and Clarence Douglas, a flight engineer. Stephen J. Douglas, Clarence's actual grandson, was cast in the role.

"When my dad heard the book was being written, he offered the publishers pictures of my grandfather,” Douglas says. "I'm not an actor. I work for a camera rental house in New York. But when I heard about the film, I wanted to get involved and made inquiries. I was thrilled when I was cast to appear as my granddad. It's more than a thrill; it's an honor.”

Technical adviser Bob Livingstone, an expert in the aircraft from the period, met with Jolie and her cast and crew before the filming of the sequence got underway. "Angie had a lot of specific, informed questions about the aircraft and the operation of a World War II bomber. It helped that she is a pilot herself with an instrument rating and immediately understood all the fine points involved,” Livingstone says. "The cast was great as well. I spent time with Domhnall and Jai inside the cockpit, explaining all the 'bits and bobs' and going over the backstory. They were quick learners, and when filming began, they looked as if they'd been flying all their lives. And as far as Jack, he wanted to know everything about his job as a bombardier and how to use the Norden bombsight.”

When cameras rolled, Angelina Jolie and Roger Deakins shot long, complicated sequences involving swooping air maneuvers in the tight spaces of the Super Man, while actors and crew endured round after round of eardrum-shattering bullet fire intended to inflict wounds on the men inside the plane. Repeated makeup adjustments were necessary to portray authentically the wounds"gushing blood and damaged flesh"sustained either from gunfire or shrapnel.

"Once filming began, everyone became focused on the job at hand. I was amazed at how Angelina Jolie was in charge of the set. It was, without a doubt, the best working environment I've seen in 40 years of employment,” Livingstone says.

With the Super Man sequence completed, work on the Green Hornet crash scenes began on the soundstage before moving on to the studio's outdoor tank. The unit also shot the early days of Louie, Phil and Mac's ordeal on the raft in the tank. When these scenes wrapped, the company traveled to Airlie Beach in North Queensland, a tropical paradise, to film scenes of Louie running as he prepared for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics (which never took place), while his fellow airmen indulged in moments of rest and recreation…unaware of what lay ahead.


Unbroken
Release Date: Janurary 15th, 2015



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