Juvenile delinquent, track star, Olympian, war hero — Louis Zamperini lived a life that seemed like something out of a movie. Fittingly, his story will finally come to the silver screen later this year in the Angelina Jolie-directed drama "Unbroken," a project more than 50 years in the making.
Earlier this year, former Times film reporter John Horn visited Zamperini at his Hollywood home for what would be one of Zamperini's final interviews. Recounting his first impression of Zamperini, Horn wrote:
Inside the Hollywood Hills home where he has lived since 1957 — he bought the house with Universal's original $8,000 book purchase a year earlier — Zamperini, 97, is as sharp as some people decades younger. While he is less active than in recent years, he still makes the occasional motivational speech and answers a steady stream of fan mail.
Though Zamperini wrote two memoirs in his lifetime (both titled "Devil at My Heels") and served as the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling book "Unbroken" (the foundation of Jolie's film), he never exhausted his cache of anecdotes. Horn wrote:
Even today, Zamperini can surprise family and friends with stories he hadn't shared before, such as how [Japanese camp commandant Mutsushiro] Watanabe loosened a molar by cuffing Zamperini in the jaw. "He hit me just like that," Zamperini demonstrated. "And after I was finally rescued the doctors said they needed to replace the tooth."
The expanse of Zamperini's life was so vast, in fact, that Jolie and the numerous filmmakers who came before her struggled with how to shape his story to fit a two-hour movie. Jolie's labors will finally bear fruit when "Unbroken" hits theaters on Christmas Day.
Read Horn's full story for more about Zamperini, Jolie and "Unbroken."