That was the message Universal Studios conveyed Tuesday, when the actress surprised exhibitors by turning up to preview "Unbroken," the World War II drama she directed, which is due out this Christmas.
It wasn’t that unusual to see a celebrity of her caliber at the event — this week,
Universal clearly has high awards-season hopes for “Unbroken.” The studio bought the rights to the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini in 1957, originally hoping to develop it as a starring vehicle for
“Angie made this movie happen,” studio chairman Donna Langley told the crowd of movie theater owners. “She fought for it and earned the right to direct it.”
Starring newcomer Jack O’Connell, “Unbroken” follows Zamperini as he goes from Olympic runner to Army pilot and is captured by the Japanese after his plane goes down. Jolie described the protagonist — who is 97 and lives in L.A. — as the “toughest man [she’s] ever met,” a “true hero” and a “man of faith.”
“I wanted to make this film because in the end, its message is one we all need now more than ever,” Jolie said. “It’s the journey of a man finding his way through the darkness and into the light. It is about an imperfect person — one who we and our children can relate to.”
It's clear the movie will be an emotional one, not straying from the darker moments of his life. When he is taken prisoner overseas, he's shown being repeatedly beaten by both fellow Americans and Japanese soldiers. In another scene, he's trapped underwater while trying to escape from a plane crash — an uncomfortable passage to watch, given the recent Malaysia plane crash.
Another eerie moment came during a preview of
But Walker was as much a part of the footage shown Tuesday as the rest of the cast, an ensemble that includes
"Just when you think it couldn't get any better, huh?" Walker's character, Brian O'Conner, says.
Universal also debuted footage from the 2015 “Despicable Me” spinoff, “Minions,” though a preview of “Dumb and Dumber To” got the biggest laughs. The sequel to the 1994 hit comedy picks up with Harry (Jeff Daniels) finding Lloyd (
Not that that causes him to straighten up his act. Yes, the pair embark on a trip to find Harry’s offspring, but they're still up to their old high jinks.
“Check out the hotties at 12 o’clock,” Harry tells Lloyd after spotting some attractive ladies.
“That’s three hours away!” Lloyd laments. “Why can’t I check them out now?"
[For the Record, 6:30 p.m. March 25: An earlier version of this article said Universal bought the rights to "Unbroken" in 1957. The studio bought the rights to the story of World War II hero Louis Zampirini in 1957. The book "Unbroken" was published in 2010.]