Louis Zamperini

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

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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

Gracie Gold qualifies for nationals, Polina Edmunds shut out

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2014 Olympian Gracie Gold qualified for the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships by virtue of a third-place finish at the Eastern Sectional Singles Final on Saturday in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

“Bronze: so hot this fall,” Gold posted on Instagram. She last competed at U.S. nationals in 2017, when she finished sixth. She won the national title in 2014 and 2016.

Gold sat second after the short program with 63.55 points, and ultimately finished third overall with 109.90 points in the free skate for 173.45 points. The top four at the event qualify for the national championships in Greensboro, North Carolina in January.

Her free skate included a fall on the opening triple Lutz and an under-rotation on the triple Lutz, double toe loop combination. She also put a hand down on the landing of a double Axel. The rest of the program, though, was clean.

Her performance, set to “She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, can be found at the 2:05 mark of the on-demand stream of the event for NBC Gold Pass subscribers.

Meanwhile, her Sochi teammate Polina Edmunds was shut out of nationals based on a fifth-place finish at the Pacific Coast Sectional Singles Final (top four qualify). Her performance can be found for NBC Gold Pass subscribers at the 1:50 mark of the on-demand stream for the event. Edmunds last competed at Nationals in 2016, when she earned the silver medal behind Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Bronze: so hot this fall 🥉

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Brittany Bowe extends unbeaten streak to open speed skating World Cup

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Brittany Bowe extended one of the most dominant runs for any U.S. Winter Olympian, earning her first straight World Cup 1000m win to open the season on Sunday.

Bowe, fourth and eighth in the event at her two Olympics, clocked 1:15.35 in Minsk, Belarus, to beat PyeongChang gold medalist Jorien ter Mors by six tenths. Ter Mors missed all of last season after knee surgery.

Bowe won every World Cup 1000m dating to last December, plus her second world title in the event last February, lowering track records at each stop.

She ended last season by breaking the world record by .48 of a second on the fast ice of the 2002 Olympic oval in Kearns, Utah. That time — 1:11.61 — would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1997.

Bowe, a former Florida Atlantic point guard who missed all of 2016-17 with a concussion, is up to 23 career World Cup wins. That’s fifth on the U.S. all-time list behind Bonnie Blair (69), Shani Davis (58), Dan Jansen (46) and Heather Bergsma (34), according to schaatsstatistieken.nl.

The World Cup moves to Poland next week.

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