Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner and World War II hero, screened a rough cut of his biopic, “Unbroken,” in the final days of his life over the summer.
Director Angelina Jolie rushed to Zamperini’s hospital with a laptop, and they watched scenes together on his bed.
“He watched very intently as a man who knew he was passing away,” Jolie told The Associated Press. “He watched his life before his eyes. He smiled when he saw his mom, and he said ‘Pete’ under his breath when he saw the character of [Zamperini’s older brother] Pete. It’s his life. I don’t know what I was expecting, some review. It was his him being able to remember. I hope it gave him peace to know that he could pass away knowing that his message was strong, knowing that his life was long-lived and full.”
Jolie cried in a red carpet interview in Australia earlier this week, after a Zamperini quote about her was read by a host, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Zamperini died at age 97 in July, almost six months before the film was to be released in the U.S. on Christmas.
Zamperini placed eighth in the 5000m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, as an Army bombardier, he survived 47 days in the Pacific Ocean with two other men after their military plane crashed and then two years at a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
His story is the subject of the best-selling 2010 book, also titled “Unbroken.”
Jolie and Zamperini became close during production of the film.
“I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie,” Zamperini said in May. “The gal really loves me. She hugs me and kisses me ’til I can’t complain.”
“He was like a father and grandfather to me,” Jolie told the AAP.
Long profiles of Jolie and “Unbroken” are in cover stories in current issues of Variety and Vanity Fair.
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