Baer, Stoff to produce Zamperini story for Universal, Walden

Angelina Jolie is in negotiations to direct “Unbroken,” the Lou Zamperini story, for Universal and Walden Media.

Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing the story of Zamperini, a track star who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and went on to fight in WWII as an Air Force bombardier. He became a POW after he crashed in the Pacific during a rescue mission and survived on a raft for 47 days.

Project, to be co-financed by Universal and Walden, has been in development since the mid 1950s. For Jolie, the directing gig will be her second following “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”

Studio bought rights early last year to “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand. Walden came on to the project in June 2011 with Francis Lawrence attached to direct at that point from Richard LaGravanese’s adaptation.

The current script has been re-written by “Les Miserables” scribe William Nicholson. Zamperiini is still alive at the age of 95.

News of Jolie’s attachment was first reported by the Deadline.com site.

“I read Laura Hillenbrand’s brilliant book, and I was so moved by Louie Zamperini’s heroic story, I immediately began to fight for the opportunity to make this film,” Jolie said in a statement. “Louie is a true hero and a man of immense humanity, faith and courage. I am deeply honored to have the chance to tell his inspiring story.”

Universal originally began development of the Zamperini story in 1956 but was not ever able to bring the pic to the big screen. The studio optioned an autobiography from Zamperini in 1956 with the intention of Tony Curtis starring. It set up a project with Nicolas Cage attached to star and produce along with Brillstein-Grey in 1998 and hired Neil Tolkin four years later to rewrite the biopic.

Project was dubbed “Iron Man” at that point, a nickname given Zamperini for withstanding torture during his internment by a vicious guard nicknamed “The Bird.” In 2003, Brad Pitt’s Plan B came on produce with Universal and Cage’s Saturn Films on “Lou Zamperini” and attached Antoine Fuqua to direct.

Mick Garris is executive producer on “Unbroken.” Michael Bostick and Amanda Morgan-Palmer will oversee the project for Walden and Peter Cramer and Kristin Lowe will oversee for Uni.

Jolie is represented by UTA for directing and attorney Robert Offer. Nicholson is represented by CAA and in the U.K. by The Agency. His attorney is Alan Wertheimer.

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