UNIVERSAL PIC TURES
Director Angelina Jolie and actor Jack
O’Connell, on the set of Unbroken.
Re-creating a track event for the film.
O’Connell as Zamperini, confronting the Bird.
son, Luke. “She put his experience at sea in the
context of the safety record of the B-24 bomber
and the number of other men that had gone
into the sea and not come out to tell their story.”
“What Laura did in her telling of the story
was so magnificent in terms of the research,
the details of the journey and the authenticity
of all the information that she found, because
her ability as a historian in turning nonfiction
into something that [is] almost as compelling
as the greatest fiction is remarkable,” says Baer.
“Laura writes in such a visual, cinematic way.”
The book was so powerful, Luke
Zamperini tells The Connection, “[Louie] had
to stop reading it from time to time just to
look out the window and remind himself that
he was not in prison camp. It was so realistic
that it was taking him right back there.”
To the silver screen
With the success of Unbroken the book,
the film became inevitable. Angelina Jolie,
well known as an actress and who had recently
directed her first film, was intrigued by the
story and threw her hat in the ring.
“She really went after it,” observes Baer.
“Angie got the job because of her passion and
genuine commitment to the ideas, the ideals,
of Lou’s story. She related to Lou’s story in
terms of somebody who would not give up,
who had incredible perseverance. She won
the day because her vision was inspiring.”
When it was time to introduce Jolie and
Zamperini, coincidence emerged: “I had
pointed out to Angie, at one of our first meetings in her home, that Lou’s house was right
above hers,” says Baer. “They could see each
other’s homes from their respective places.
“Once Angie officially got the job we
went over to Lou’s house so that they could
meet, and Brad [Pitt, now Jolie’s husband]
came along, and they brought Lou an amazing basket of Italian food and wine, which he
loved,” says Baer. “We just talked, and Angie
was her usual gracious and kind self to Lou.
And Lou was without question the biggest
flirt I’ve ever seen, and always was.”
On meeting Jack O’Connell, the young
British actor who would play him, Zamperini
let him try on his beloved bomber jacket. It
was a perfect fit. O’Connell was not a big star
when he was cast (he may be by the time you
read this), but Jolie eschewed big stars so the
audience would be immersed in the story.
“It is very hard to watch him being tortured
in the movie, because at times he looks so much
like my father,” says Zamperini-Garris.
When Zamperini took ill with the pneumonia that would end his life, Jolie visited him
in the hospital. After his passing, Jolie and Pitt
had the family to their home. Luke and
Cynthia lamented their father’s not being able
to see the film, to which Jolie replied, “He did
see the movie. I took it to him and showed it
to him on my laptop 20 minutes at a time. The
only thing I didn’t show him was the stuff with
the Bird, because I didn’t want to upset him.”
Throughout the years of Zamperini’s life
after the war, he never tired of telling his
story, but it wasn’t for vanity.
Luke says, “He was always willing and
able to tell his story because of the positive
effect it had on people, not to his glory, but to
the glory of the Lord.”
Part of Zamperini’s salvation was his
desire to give back to society. Knowing his
own life could have gone in a different direction if he hadn’t discovered running, he started the
Victory Boys Camp to help
troubled youths learn the ways of
the outdoors away from the city.
He ran the camp until last year.
Asked how many people his
father helped, Luke says, “Hundreds,
if not a few thousand. I recall going
COURTESY OF LAURA HILLENBRAND
Zamperini with author Laura Hillenbrand.
on a cruise ship with him to Mexico, where he
was a guest speaker. During the question-and-answer period, a guy stood up and said, ‘Hey,
Mr. Zamperini, I was in your camp in 1957,
and what you told me stuck with me, and basically it changed my life.’ And then another guy
stands up and says, ‘Well, Mr. Zamperini, I
was in your camp in 1961.’ There are countless
young people that he’s helped directly, and,
since the book came out, there’s been hundreds of people writing in and saying how
much the story has changed their lives. And
then when the film comes out, we’ll see.”
Louis Zamperini was expected to be on
the red carpet for the film’s premiere; he had
been invited to be the Grand Marshal of the
2015 Rose Parade. But, for him, it was all
about the story. That story will live forever. C
DECEMBER 2014 ;e Costco Connection 27
The Costco Connection
Find Louis Zamperini’s story in the book
Unbroken in adult (Item #908298 and
#949790) and young adult (#952887)
versions in all Costco warehouses.
Audio versions are available in select
locations. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give
In: Lessons from an Extraordinary
Life, by Louis Zamperini and David
Rensin (#950730), is also available in
all warehouses. Many Costcos sell
movie vouchers for local theaters.