Angelina Jolie, actor who plays Louis Zamperini discuss ‘Unbroken’ Olympic scenes

Louis Zamperini

Angelina Jolie relied on archived coverage of the 1936 Olympics as well as Laura Hillenbrand‘s book and the “perfect recollection” of Louis Zamperini in producing scenes of Zamperini at the Berlin Olympics in “Unbroken.”

The film hits theaters on Christmas.

Zamperini placed eighth in the 5000m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, as an Army bombardier, he survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean with two other men (one died after 33 days) after their military plane crashed, and then two years at a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Zamperini died in July at age 97.

“To the very end of his life, Louie had perfect recollection of events that had occurred 40, 50 or 60 years previously, and his way of sharing those stories made you lean in and want to hear more,” Jolie said in an email. “Hearing him talk about the sights and sounds of the [Olympic] stadium, the exquisite silence of waiting for the starter gun, the intensity of racing against the fastest runners in the world all helped draw imaginary storyboards of how this could play out on the screen.”

Jolie’s researchers also located archived coverage of the 1936 Olympics, including Leni Riefenstahl’s two-part documentary, “Olympia,” which lasted 226 minutes.

In Jolie’s film, Zamperini is shown with the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremony and later running his Olympic final. He blistered the final lap of the 12 1/2-lap race in 56 seconds, moving up four spots.

“While I wanted to get the historical setting right and place the audience inside the Olympic Stadium, what I really wanted to convey was how that race epitomized Louie’s entire approach to life,” Jolie said. “When he found himself in the back of the pack going into the final sprint, he didn’t give up. He never reconciled himself to the thought of surrender. He found reserves of energy and fight and rocketed forward with a last lap so impressive that Hitler himself requested to meet ‘the boy with the fast finish.'”

Jack O’Connell, the British actor who played Zamperini, said in a phone interview that they shot a scene with Hitler “beckoning him over.” That scene didn’t make the film’s final 137-minute cut. They originally had 3 1/2 hours of scenes.

Jolie was asked about the decision to cut the Hitler scene.

“We shot this kid from Torrance [Calif.] meeting the most formidable figure in the world because it seems like such a delicious anecdote,” Jolie said. “But when I reviewed early cuts of the film, I had to make some very hard choices of what to leave in and what to take out. Believe me, every edit came with some pain for me because I wanted to honor Louie’s story in all of its remarkable expansiveness, but it was just impossible to include it all in one film. While meeting Hitler might be colorful, it wasn’t really the defining element of the Games for Louie. That ‘fast finish’ was.”

The most famous 1936 Olympian also makes a brief appearance in the film. That’s Zamperini’s U.S. Olympic track and field teammate — Jesse Owens.

“It made sense to acknowledge that Louie would have encountered him,” Jolie said. “Jesse Owens’ story certainly deserves its own film.”

An Owens biopic, “Race,” is slated for 2016.

Jolie and Zamperini lived in the same California neighborhood and became close friends in development of the film. Zamperini gave Jolie a gift, a golden running shoe pendant from one of his races, that she reportedly wore during filming in Australia.

Jolie said she will remember all of the details Zamperini shared with her about the Berlin Olympics.

“He would talk to me about how the shoes fit, how the uniform was cut, how the food tasted and how the girls looked — there was always a lot of talk about the food and the ladies!” Jolie said. “What struck me most is realizing how very few people get to experience the Olympic Games from the perspective of a competitor.

“It was almost 80 years ago for Louie, and his memories of it remained vivid and lasting. It demonstrated what an honor, what a defining moment, it is for anyone to look up and realize they are participating in the grandest, most historic athletic competition our world has to offer. How could that not etch itself into your memory forever?”

O’Connell, a 24-year-old actor, said he met Zamperini three times. He emphasized Zamperini’s abnormal stride, that his hips dislocated while running. O’Connell, with little running experience and mostly sprints, worked with a personal trainer on a treadmill and outdoors with resistance work to prepare for the role.

Of course, O’Connell also had to prepare to look like Zamperini as a gaunt prisoner of war. Those scenes were filmed before the Olympic race, so he was on a reported diet of 800 calories per day while training.

Breakfast? A boiled egg and salad. Lunch? A box of blueberries. Dinner? Two ounces of white meat and some vegetables. He said he dropped from nearly 150 pounds to below 120.

“If it wasn’t made from God’s green Earth, then I didn’t bother with it,” he said with an accent.

Watch trailer for ‘Unbroken’

Jolie showed Zamperini rough cut days before he died

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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