ngelina Jolie, Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock

(L-R) Angelina Jolie, Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, and Finn Wittrock on the set of ‘Unbroken’

*“Unbroken” is a story of faith, courage and perseverance. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s renowned book, “Unbroken,” is an epic drama that tells the story of war hero—and Olympian—Louis “Louie” Zamperini. During the war Zamperini survived a plane crash, 47 days on a raft, being shot at by enemy planes, shark attacks, starvation and torture at the hands of his Japanese captors. An atheist brought up in a Christian family, he prayed to Godin that if he survived his horrendous ordeals, he would dedicate his life to serving Him—and he did just that!

“A part of you still belives 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

 As one of the year’s best films, director Angelina Jolie ignites the screen with Louie Zamperini’s extraordinary story. At the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, Jolie, cast and Zamperini convened to not only talk about “Unbroken,” but pay tribute to Zamperini.

“I don’t know if Angelina told you this, but I will like to share something with you,” Cynthia Garris, the daughter of Zamperini said. “She was not a person of faith. She had never prayed before but she found herself at the very last scene of the movie, the day of shooting they needed sunlight to shoot a very important scene, there had been a storm that had been going for a while. She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, so I’m going to do what Louie would do.’ She got on her knees. She put her hands like this [hands together in prayer form] and she prayed for a miracle. We weren’t there but everybody saw it. It stopped raining, the sun came out, a rainbow came out. She said. ‘Let’s get this take.’ They shot the take and when she said cut, it started to rain again.

“So she was so moved by my father’s faith and what he wants for people to get from the movie, she was not impervious to his beliefs. When my father died, we were all with him in the hospital. She came later and as we walked out, she was pointing to the sky and saying, ‘I know he’s there with God.’ So my even moved her and I think in God’s plan for Angelina, she was supposed to find Louie and make this movie, to find her way to a life that would encompass the All Mighty. Angelina is certainly Is a great humanitarian and has proven her love for her fellow man over and over again by her acts and deeds and I think that maybe it was part of God’s plan that she be a part of his life at this time.”

Luke Zamperini, Louie’s son, continued to emphasize his father’s reverence. “Faith meant a lot to my father,” he added. “My dad had to be sure his faith and forgiveness would come out in the story, and Angelina assured me it would.” “My father was such a wonderful example to me when I was a child and I became a Christian just by listening to his stories, and asking him questions about the bible,” Garris continued.

“He never forced us to go to Sunday school, he never shoved anything down our throats. He just inspired us with his faith to be people of faith and he just stayed so true to his faith, unwavering until the moment he died and went to glory. At times I just envied how he seemed to look back on his whole life and see the hand of God everywhere, saving him. He almost died at least 100 times in his life starting from being 2½ years old and contracting pneumonia.

“Then he had fallen into an oil well tank. You can’t swim in oil and somehow he was miraculously saved from that and the miracles that happened on the life raft with the bullets, the miracle of being freed under water after being entangled, he could certainly look back and see that he was saved every single time for a reason and that his life had a very clear purpose and meaning.”

When The Film Strip asked how it was recreating Zamperini’s for the screen, the gracious Jolie, not wanting all the attention to be directed at her, looked at Finn Wittrock (Mac) and asked him how was it for him. “It was great to eat when it was over (Laughs). I think my eyes were very open when I got to meet Louie. You know you’re playing a real person, but when you meet someone who literally watched your character starve to death in front of him, it’s powerful.

“Wrapping my mind around the fact that Mac died in Louie’s arms provided a heightened sense of reality and responsibility. We didn’t know much about who Mac was, but I felt like I had to do his spirit justice. He could be any of our grandfathers, and I think we all felt a responsibility to do service to a story that is bigger than any of us. So that was the thing, to keep reminding yourself when you’re in the trenches and when you had four blueberries for breakfast, that you push yourself, because you want the story to be told.”

Jack O’Connell (Louie Zamperini) jumped in with, “Here’s a fun fact, Downhall [Gleeson] lost so much weight, even his eyeballs changed shape.”  Jolie confirmed by saying, “It’s true. They fit when we started shooting and when we finally got to the end of the shoot, they wouldn’t go into his eyes.”

Angie, why is it important that ‘Unbroken’ have a PG-13 and not an R rating?

I want my children to know about men like Louie, so when they feel bad about themselves and think all is lost, they know they’ve got something inside of them because that’s what this story speaks to. It’s a movie for everybod. You don’t have to be a perfect person or a saint or hero. Louie was very flawed, very human, but made great choices and was, in the end, a great man.

What was it about the book that made you want to adapt it to the screen?

I think what it was that, like everybody, we wake up and watch the news, and see the events going on around the world. We’re disheartened by so much, and we feel overwhelmed and we don’t know what’s possible. We want something to hold onto, something to believe in, and something to give us strength. I was halfway though his book, and I found myself inspired and on fire, feeling better and being reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the strength of Louie having a brother like Pete, being there for each other. I realized the effect it was having on me, and I knew it had affected so many other people. Isn’t this what we needed to put forward into the world at this time? I believe it is, and I’m very happy it’s coming out during the holidays. I think it’s an important time. It’s the right time.

“Unbroken” opens Christmas day, December 25.

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]