Angelina Jolie brings Unbroken to CinemaCon

Angelina Jolie brings Unbroken to CinemaCon

Hanging tough.

By (Agencies)

Published: Thu 27 Mar 2014, 10:28 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:12 PM

ANGELINA JOLIE TOOK to the stage at CinemaCon, the annual convention of theatre exhibitors in Las Vegas, on Tuesday to reveal footage from the upcoming survival saga Unbroken, which she directed and produced.

“I wanted to make this film because its message is one that we all need now more than ever,” said Jolie in front of the crowd of theatre owners at Caesars Palace.

Shot in Sydney last year, the film tells the true story of Lou Zamperini, a World War II hero and track star who ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zamperini, who is played by Jack O’Connell, spent a harrowing 47 days afloat in the Pacific Ocean following the 1943 crash of his U.S. military plane. He spent the following two years as a prisoner of war after washing up behind Japanese enemy lines.

Developed originally by Universal Pictures in 1957, the biopic was supposed to star Tony Curtis, said Universal chairwoman Donna Langley before introducing Jolie. But after many false starts, the project never took shape. It wasn’t until Zamperini’s story caught the attention of Jolie that the film really began to evolve.

“She fought for it and earned the right to direct it,” said Langley, who called Jolie “a true filmmaker.”

Unbroken, to be released in December, is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, which chronicles Zamperini’s life.

“Lou Zamperini is the toughest man I have ever met,” said Jolie. “He’s a fighter and true hero. He is also a man of faith, full of love and humility. He sounds perfect. But he wasn’t always. Smoking, stealing and drinking by the time he was nine, he was convinced he was worth nothing and full of darkness.”


The footage teased revealed affecting scenes of Zamperini’s struggles, from his efforts to escape from his military plane after it crashed into the ocean, to the beatings underwent as a prisoner. It teased theatre owners with an extended look at the picture, which tracks Zamperini as he matures from a street ruffian into an Olympic distance runner and eventually an air force bombardier. After his plane crashes off of Oahu, he manages to survive only to be captured by the Japanese.

The preview showed Zamperini enduring all manner of physical hardship, from beatings to whippings to sadistic tests of strength.

Jolie added that Zamperini’s journey can remind us of what we’re capable of. “Gain strength from our family, identify our fears and our pain, come face to face with darkness and never give up,” she said.

Unbroken is the second time Jolie has directed a feature. The 2011 war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey was her first.

Universal Pictures is pinning its Oscar hopes on Jolie and Unbroken.

“Angie made this movie happen,” Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley said at CinemaCon. “She fought for it and earned the right to direct it.”

The studio clearly thinks Jolie should make room on her mantle come awards season.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins, which manages to make Zamperini’s torments visually arresting while bringing the brutality home, could finally win the Skyfall and Prisoners veteran his long denied Academy Award after 11 failed nominations.

Unbroken was dramatically different in tone from a steady stream of raunchy R-rated comedies that the studio is banking on for the rest of the year.

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