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‘Unbroken’: The incredible life of Louis Zamperini

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
December 20, 2012
Louis Zamperini
Louis Zamperini

If it didn't actually happen, you might think the story came from a Hollywood pitch that started with: "Think 'Forrest Gump' meets 'Life of Pi'." But Louis Zamperini's real life tale -- which has already been spun into a best-selling book -- is now being made for the big screen. And it's all true.

News broke this week that the Zamperini tale "Unbroken" will be directed by Angelina Jolie, who is said to have beat out other directors to helm her first major studio film. The story is being adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's best selling 2010 book of the same name. And those who have read it know exactly why the biography would play well on the big screen. It's simply unbelievable.

An athlete and a World War II vet, Zamperini cheated death in numerous and harrowing ways, shook Adolf Hitler's hand, and ran one event for his fourth time ever at the Berlin Olympics. Incidentally, at the age of 95, he is still alive and living in Southern California.

The following are astounding facts about Zamperini in chronological order:

-At 19 years old, Zamperini qualified for the Olympics in track and field after racing 5,000 meters for the second time ever.

-He wound up finishing in eight place at the Berlin, Germany, games in 1936.  There, he met Adolf Hitler, who requested a meeting.

-He stole Hitler's personal Nazi flag, which he still has to this day.

-In 1940, Zamperini's dreams of winning a gold medal came to a halt when the Olympics were cancelled at start of World War II.

Louis Zamperini
Louis Zamperini

-Zamperini joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941, later flying several dangerous missions across the Pacific.

-In the summer of 1943 he was the only man of an 11-man crew to ultimately survive an attack on their B-24 over the ocean.

-Initially, Zamperini and two other crew members survived on a raft for several days, collecting rain water for drinking as well as the blood of the birds they would kill bare handed. Sharks would circle and brush up against their raft. One crew member died on day 33. The other two survived a total of 47 days.

-They drifted 2000 miles to the Marshall Islands, where they're taken as prisoners by the Japanese.

-Zamperini became a prisoner of war, enduring constant torture and starvation for two years.

-He returned home to his family after the war ended in 1945 and married a Miami debutante a year later.

From there Zamperini's story becomes one of emotional survival. He battled depression and alcoholism and eventually triumphed.

A release date for "Unbroken" has yet to be set.

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