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Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’: First Trailer For Louis Zamperini WWII Drama

By | Thursday July 10, 2014 @ 9:23am PDT

Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’: First Trailer For Louis Zamperini WWII DramaUniversal has unveiled the first trailer for Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken, the true story of World War II hero and former Olympic long distance runner Louis Zamperini. Unbroken tracks the life of the young Olympian, who enlisted in the Air Force after war broke out in 1941. After his plane went down in the Pacific, Zamperini and two crew mates survived on a raft for 47 days before being taken prisoner by the Japanese. Last week Zamperini passed away at the age of 97. Universal first bought rights to Zamperini’s life story in the 1950s. It will finally hit theaters this Christmas. Unbroken stars Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, and Alex Russell and marks Jolie’s sophomore turn as director. Take a look: Read More »

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An Appreciation Of Louis Zamperini, A True American Hero

Mike Fleming

An Appreciation Of Louis Zamperini, A True American HeroWhat sad pre-holiday news: American Olympian track star and WWII hero Louis Zamperini passed away last night at age 97, just one day short of Independence Day. It’s somehow poignant that Zamperini’s shadow hovers over the July 4th holiday; it comes half a year before the Universal Pictures release of Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed adaptation of the Laura Hillenbrand bestseller about a man whose unwillingness to break despite the most difficult of circumstances in a Japanese POW camp made him the personification of struggle and heroism. Part of that struggle included getting a movie made on his extraordinary life; imagine, Universal’s first attempt at a Zamperini film came in the 1950s, when Tony Curtis sparked to playing Zamperini as his follow-up to Spartacus.

louzzMany know Zamperini’s story because of the superb book by Seabiscuit author Hillenbrand, and the world will celebrate him at year’s end when Universal releases the film in Oscar season, with Jack O’Connell playing Zamperini. I have been obsessed with Zamperini since I saw a segment on his ordeal broadcast by CBS during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and have written about the movie at Variety and Deadline since then at the slightest provocation, because it seemed such a worth screen story. When CBS chronicled his story, Zamperini returned to Japan to run with the Olympic torch, covering ground not far from where he spent an unimaginably brutal stretch in a Japanese prison camp … Read More »

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R.I.P. Louis Zamperini, Olympian War Hero Is Subject Of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’

By | Thursday July 3, 2014 @ 1:27am PDT

R.I.P. Louis Zamperini, Olympian War Hero Is Subject Of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’UPDATED: Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero and former Olympic long distance runner, has died. The subject of Angelina Jolie‘s upcoming sophomore directorial effort Unbroken, Zamperini was 97. Universal, which announced his passing this morning, had developed the Unbroken project for close to 55 years when it finally got off the ground with Jolie signed to direct in December 2012. The script is based on Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and louis zamperini olympicsRedemption, by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand. Zamperini was a Depression era kid who became a track prodigy and was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team that traveled to Berlin for the 1936 games. He didn’t medal, but was so impressive that Hitler asked to meet him. The 1940 Olympics in Tokyo were cancelled due to the war, and in 1941, Zamperini enlisted in the Air Force. When his plane went down in the Pacific during a rescue mission, Zamperini and two other crew mates survived on a raft in the hot sun for 47 days. They were ultimately caught by the Japanese Navy, beginning a terrifying term of captivity that lasted until the end of the war in 1945. Universal first bought Zamperini’s rights back in the 1950s.

As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr has written, “Few movies gestate as long as this one, but it’s clear from Hillenbrand’s remarkable book that it … Read More »

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Akiva Goldsman To Direct Horror Film ‘Stephanie’

By | Wednesday June 25, 2014 @ 8:54am PDT

Akiva Goldsman To Direct Horror Film ‘Stephanie’EXCLUSIVE: Akiva Goldsman is stepping behind the camera again, this time to bring a horror film to the big screen with Stephanie — a story about a little girl with unworldly abilities who was abandoned before a man and a woman show up claiming to be her parents, thereby interrupting her mysterious world. A fall start is being eyed.

Goldsman, of course, is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter behind A Beautiful Mind and one of the many producers on Lone Survivor which Universal released last Christmas to critical and commercial acclaim. He also co-scripted Insurgent and Allegiant: Part 1, the next two pictures in the Divergent trilogy series for Lionsgate. He also exec produced Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4 with Blumhouse, which is one of the producers of this film. Horror fare can be extraordinarily profitable at the box office because their budgets are usually lower and the genre itself tends to have rabid fans. Read More »

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Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt Teaming On New Project She Wrote

By | Friday May 2, 2014 @ 3:50pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Brad PittjolieEXCLUSIVE: Here is a film that instantly becomes the one every studio will want on their slate. Angelina Jolie is in early talks to star with Brad Pitt in an original script that she has written. It’s in the early talking stages and nothing is solidified, but I hear it’s happening. I don’t know a lot more at this point.

Related: Sundance: Angelina Jolie Joins Ethiopian Pic ‘Difret’ As Executive Producer

The film hasn’t locked distribution, but it will team Jolie and Pitt together for the first time since 2005′s Mr. And Mrs. Smith. That film displayed an intense chemistry onscreen, and this was before they became a couple offscreen. Jolie is working on post-production on Unbroken, the adaptation she directed of the Laura Hillenbrand book. Universal has set a December 25 release for the harrowing survival tale of Olympic track prodigy-turned-WWII POW Lou Zamperini. It’s expected to be right in the Oscar mix. Unbroken was a hotly contested directing project, and Jolie won the job with a presentation that wowed the studio, where Donna Langley also was very impressed with her directorial debut, In The Land Of Blood And Honey. She next stars in Disney’s Maleficent, which opens May 30 with Jolie playing the title character in the revisionist version of the fairy tale.

Related:Read More »

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Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ Previewed During Olympics: Video

By | Sunday February 16, 2014 @ 2:52pm PST

Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken got a first-look tease today during the Olympics in an extended preview profiling Louis Zamperini, the Olympian-turned-WWII POW whose life story gets the big screen treatment this Christmas. Jack O’Connell plays the younger Zamperini with Japan’s Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, and Jai Courtney in supporting roles. The Universal release marks Jolie’s second feature as helmer following 2011′s In the Land Of Blood And Honey. Check it out:

Related: First Look Photo: ‘Unbroken’s Angelina Jolie & Louis Zamperini

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Michael Chernus Joins Cameron Crowe Pic; Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ Casts Young Zamperini; Rich Graff Joins ‘My Dead Boyfriend’

By | Tuesday October 29, 2013 @ 6:33pm PDT

Captain Phillips‘ Michael Chernus is the latest addition to Sony‘s untitled Cameron Crowe film. Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams star with Emma Stone, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin and Bill Murray filling out the cast. Scott Rudin is producing the pic with a logline that’s still under wraps. Chernus is also currently recurring on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. He’s repped by UTA and Jill Kaplan.

Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken has added newcomer CJ Valleroy to its cast. He’ll play “Young Louie,” AKA the young Louis Zamperini aged 12, in Universal’s real life tale of the Olympian turned WWII prisoner of war. Jack O’Connell has been cast as the older Zamperini. Jai Courtney, Miyavi, John Magaro, Garrett Hedlund, and Domhnall Gleeson also star. Valleroy is repped by Lane Management Group and Coast to Coast Talent Agency.

Rich Graff has landed a role in indie My Dead Boyfriend, the directorial debut of Anthony Edwards. Heather Graham stars as a woman who discovers who her couch potato boyfriend really was after she finds him dead at home. Graff plays the expired boyfriend who was also the drummer in her band. John Corbett also stars in the pic which is currently filming in NYC. … Read More »

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Jai Courtney Tapped For Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’, Russell Crowe’s ‘Water Diviner’

By | Thursday October 24, 2013 @ 1:55pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVEJai Courtney is in high demand with Oscar-winning actors-turned-directors; he has signed to co-star in the films directed by Angelina Jolie and Russell Crowe. He’ll start with Unbroken, the film Jolie is directing for Universal based on the unbreakable spirit of Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards. Courtney will play Hugh ‘Cup’ Cuppernell, a WWII veteran pilot who gets caught in tenacious midair gunfight alongside Zamperini, who’s played by Jack O’Connell.

Related: Exclusive: Angelina Jolie To Direct ‘Unbroken’

Courtney will then move to The Water Diviner, Crowe’s feature directorial debut about an Australian man who travels to Turkey to attempt to locate the bodies of his three sons, who were killed there during WWI. Courtney portrays Lt-Col Cecil Hilton, the smart, efficient soldier tasked with organizing the effort to identify the tens of thousands of soldiers killed at Gallipoli. He reluctantly allows Connors to stay and look for his sons’ bodies. Crowe and Olga Kurylenko are also starring.

Related: Exclusive: Russell Crowe Sets ‘Water Diviner’ For Directing Debut Read More »

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Angelina Jolie Sets Japanese Singer Miyavi As Brutal WWII POW Camp Guard ‘The Bird’ In ‘Unbroken’

By | Friday October 11, 2013 @ 12:00pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and director Angelina Jolie have found their villain for the Lou Zamperini tale Unbroken. Jolie has set Japanese guitarist and singer Miyavi to play the role of Mutsushiro Watanabe, known as “The Bird.” That is the guard who made it his mission to break the spirit of Zamperini, and who haunted the athlete-turned-POW’s every step after he was captured in WWII. I’m told by individuals close to the project that it was no easy task to cast this role. After a long search for the perfect actor, the filmmakers continually found themselves returning to Miyavi’s captivating audition, one that mixed grace, ferocity, sensitivity and sophistication. That audition got Miyavi his first lead role in a Hollywood film. Jolie begins production in Australia in two weeks, and Universal releases the film December 25, 2014.

Miyavi might be a new face onscreen, but he is well known in international music circles for his unconventional guitar and singing skills and music that incorporates period-authentic guitars and playing styles from the 1940s. Now he’s going back to that volatile wartime era in Unbroken. Miyavi will have to reschedule part of an upcoming Asia tour to perform the role.

“As a musician, I questioned whether I should take a break from my craft to pursue this role,” Miyavi said in a statement. “After meeting Angie, it became clear to me that an underlying theme to this story is forgiveness. This resonated with me because that is exactly what I want express through my music. I look forward to taking on this challenge whole-heartedly.”

I must say, I have been fixated on The Bird since I first saw a wonderful short segment broadcast during the Nagano Olympics, where Zamperini returned to Japan in 1998. After running so compellingly in the final lap of his distance race in the 1936 Munich Olympics that Hitler asked to shake his hand, Zamperini was expected to bring home the gold with four more years of seasoning. The 1940 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Japan but all that fell apart in war. Zamperini instead arrived as a bombardier fighting in WWII. Sent on a rescue mission aboard a faulty aircraft, Zamperini and two other crewmen were the only survivors of a crash in the Pacific Ocean. After surviving in a raft for 47 days, the near-dead men were caught by the Japanese navy. And so began a POW ordeal that would have broken most men. In that CBS segment, Zamperini found the grace to forgive his captor, and offered to do it in person. The Bird was interviewed on camera, but he refused to meet with the hero he tormented for so many years. Read More »

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First Look Photo: ‘Unbroken’s Angelina Jolie & Louis Zamperini

By | Thursday October 10, 2013 @ 12:21pm PDT

The Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken tells the true story of U.S. Olympian-turned-WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. Universal today released the first photo of Jolie alongside Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell in this big-time project adapted from Lauren Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller. Universal optioned the rights to the book in 2010. It’s set for a Christmas 2014 release.

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John Magaro Joins Angelina Jolie’s Louis Zamperini Pic ‘Unbroken’

By | Monday October 7, 2013 @ 11:40am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: John Magaro (Not Fade Away) has been cast in Unbroken, the true story of U.S. Olympian-turned-WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini which Angelina Jolie is helming for Universal. Magaro will play Frank A. Tinker, an Air Force dive bomb pilot and opera singer who befriends Zamperini en route to a Japanese POW camp. Jack O’Connell won the role of Zamperini and leads a cast that includes Garrett Hedlund and Domhnall Gleeson. The script, adapted from Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller, is by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese with a rewrite by Joel and Ethan Coen. Filming begins mid-October under DP Roger Deakins ahead of an already-set Christmas 2014 release. Magaro is repped by Abrams Artists and Authentic Talent and Literary Management.

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Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ Adds Garrett Hedlund

By | Wednesday September 18, 2013 @ 10:05am PDT

Garrett Hedlund has joined lead Jack O’Connell in Unbroken, the true story of Olympian-turned-POW Louis Zamperini that Angelina Jolie is directing for Universal. The Inside Llewyn Davis actor will play Fitzgerald in the film based on based on the best-selling Laura Hillenbrand novel. His character is the head of the camp where O’Connell’s Zamperini is being held. Unbroken begins shooting in Australia in next month and Universal has set a Christmas Day 2014 release date. Joel and Ethan Coen have rewritten the screenplay from earlier drafts by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. Variety first reported the casting. Hedlund is represented by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.

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Domhnall Gleeson Cast In Lou Zamperini Pic ‘Unbroken’

By | Thursday August 22, 2013 @ 9:30am PDT

Domhnall Gleeson will star opposite lead Jack O’Connell in Unbroken, the incredibly true story of Olympian-turned-POW Louis Zamperini that Angelina Jolie is directing for Universal. The film, based on the best-selling Laura Hillenbrand novel, begins shooting in Australia in October. Universal has set a Christmas Day 2014 release date. UK-born O’Connell nabbed the starring role last month and will play the young Zamperini from the time he was a wunderkind member of the USA track team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to his survival of a harrowing plane crash in the Pacific Ocean during WWII through 47 days adrift in a life raft to becoming a POW in a Japanese prison camp. Irishman Gleeson will  Phil, who was also on the raft.  His deal closed after a long slog trying to work out scheduling issues, but now it’s been set, making him the second actor to board the project. Gleeson, repped by Paradigm and Ireland-based The Agency, is next up in Richard Curtis’ comedy About Time opposite Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy, which Universal releases November 1. He also is just wrapping Universal’s Scott Rudin-produced Ex Machina, which Alex Garland is directing, and also just starred opposite Michael Fassbender the indie Irish pic Frank. UPDATE: Reps have also confirmed that Finn Wittrock is in talks to join the pic. In addition to extensive theater work Wittrock has parts … Read More »

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Jack O’Connell Nabs Louis Zamperini Role In Angelina Jolie Pic ‘Unbroken’

By | Wednesday July 10, 2013 @ 12:30pm PDT

Jack O’Connell was one of three young actors who had recently tested for the role of the young Louis Zamperini in Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed biopic that Universal has just dated for Christmas 2014. O’Connell has won the part and will play Zamperini from the time he was a wunderkind member of the USA track team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to his survival of a harrowing plane crash in the Pacific Ocean during WWII through 47 days adrift in a life raft to becoming a POW in a Japanese prison camp. The film is based on the New York Times bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, and production is set to start in September. O’Connell is starring in the sequel 300: Rise Of An Empire that is due out next March, and his credits include This Is England, Eden Lake, Harry Brown and TV’s Skins. He is repped by CAA in the U.S. and Conway van Gelder Grant in the UK.

Related: Angelina Jolie To Direct ‘Unbroken’

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Universal Dates Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ For December 25, 2014

By | Wednesday July 10, 2013 @ 10:19am PDT

Universal has set a Christmas Day 2014 release for Unbroken, the film that tells the incredible story of Olympian and war hero Lou Zamperini based on Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. This will be Angelina Jolie‘s second turn as director following In The Land Of Blood And Honey. Unbroken is set to begin production in late September. “I’ve had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Louie Zamperini, who is a hero of mine, and now—I am proud to say—a dear friend,” said Jolie in a statement. “I am deeply honored to be telling his extraordinary story, and I will do my absolute best to give him the film he deserves”. Deadline’s Mike Fleming broke the story last December that Jolie had been tapped to direct the pic, something she had campaigned hard for against several other directors.

Related: Jack O’Connell Nabs Louis Zamperini Role In ‘Unbroken’

Originally published by Random House in 2010, the book follows the incredible life story of Olympian and war hero Zamperini who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. The project has a long history with Universal, which first acquired the rights to tell the life story of Zamperini in 1957 and optioned the rights to Hillenbrand’s book in December 2010. Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) rewrote the screenplay from earlier drafts by William Nicholson (Les Misérables) and Richard LaGravenese (HBO’s Behind The Candelabra). Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing and Mick Garris and David Crockett serve as executive producers. The full press release follows after the jump.

Related:
Angelina Jolie To Direct ‘Unbroken’
Angelina Jolie Narrowing Choices For Young Lou Zamperini In ‘Unbroken’ Read More »

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Angelina Jolie Narrowing Choices For Young Lou Zamperini In ‘Unbroken’

By | Thursday June 13, 2013 @ 1:15pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures, Walden Media and director Angelina Jolie are getting closer to the start line on Unbroken, the incredible story of Louis Zamperini based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. I’m hearing that three young actors — Alexander Dreymon (Blood Ransom), 300: Rise Of An Empire co-star Jack O’Connell and Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star Dane DeHaan — are screen-testing to play Zamperini as a young man. I don’t know that Jolie won’t widen her short list — she has met with reams of young actors already to get to this point — but I do believe this has the potential to be a career-making job. The actor will play Zamperini from the time he was a wunderkind member of the American track team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to his survival of a harrowing plane crash on the water, to becoming a POW in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Zamperini, who has shown an iron will in dealing with adversity, turned 96 in January and the emergence of this short list is good news because it means he hopefully will get to see the film. It is one that Universal first developed in 1956 when it was to star Tony Curtis, right after Spartacus. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing and Mick Garris is exec producer.

Jolie signed on last December to make this her second film as director after In The Land Of Blood And Honey. She had campaigned hard for the job against other directors who sparked to Hillenbrand’s book. I spoke to her at the time and she was completely dialed into the story and how she wanted to tell it. Since then, Joel and Ethan Coen rewrote a script that had been penned by Gladiator and Les Miserables co-writer William Nicholson, who rewrote an earlier draft by Richard LaGravanese, The book has now been on The New York Times Bestseller List for two and a half years, which is the fifth-longest a book has stayed there. Read More »

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