After waiting years to get a Lou Zamperini biopic up and running, Universal Pictures looks ready to get “Unbroken” off the ground dating it for Dec. 25, 2014 and tapping Jack O’Connell to star as Zamperini.
Angelina Jolie is directing with the Coen Brothers doing the latest pass on the script.
Pic is based on the Laura Hillenbrand book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” that follows the true story of Lou Zamperini who was a Los Angeles high school track star who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific. He survived without food and water for 47 days, enduring shark attacks, aerial attacks and hunger before washing ashore on a Japanese island behind enemy lines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years and tortured by his captors.
“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. “I am deeply honored to be telling his extraordinary story, and I will do my absolute best to give him the film he deserves. I am grateful to Universal for making this film a priority.”
Even though the book was published in 2010, Uni has had the life rights to Zamperini since 1957 and has tried for decades to get it off the ground.
Since optioning the book in 2010, Co-Chairman Donna Langley and Co-President of Production Peter Cramer have championed the project and worked hard to make sure the film finally moves forward. Universal’s VP of Production, Kristin Lowe and creative executive, Sara Scott will oversee the project for the studio.
O’Connell was among a handful of young actors who tested for the role in June with Dane DeHaan and Alexander Dreymon among the others that read for the part. O’Connell emerged the frontrunner for the role after initial tests but the studio wanted to make sure scheduling could be worked out.
Early on in the process, the studio was looking to avoid the testing route and go after more of an established name like Aaron Taylor- Johnson or Joseph Gordon Levitt but with the budget a concern, the studio decided to take to the screen testing route to see if an actor who would cost less might emerge as a possible candidate.
While he doesn’t have the name recognition of Levitt or Johnson, O’Connell’s status has been on the rise in recent months. He also tested for the role opposite Colin Firth in Matthew Vaughn’s “The Secret Service” and has a big role in the upcoming sequel “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Other past credits include “Harry Brown” starring Michael Caine and “Eden Lake.”
He is repped by CAA and Conway van Gelder Grant.