Louis Zamperini, a World War II hero whose life is the subject of the upcoming film “Unbroken,” died from pneumonia in Los Angeles on July 2. He was 97.
Universal Pictures released statements early Thursday from the Zamperini family and Angelina Jolie, who directed the upcoming film. The movie is based on “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand.
Zamperini competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a distance runner and went on to fight in WWII as a U.S. Army Air Force bombardier; he became a prisoner of war after he survived a crash in shark-infested waters in the Pacific.
“Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge,” the family said in a statement. “He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.”
Universal Pictures said in its statement: “We are so profoundly sad at this moment and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Zamperini family. Louis was truly one of a kind. He lived the most remarkable life, not because of the many unbelievable incidents that marked his near century’s worth of years, but because of the spirit with which he faced every one of them.”
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Universal is releasing “Unbroken” on Christmas Day.
Jolie said in her statement: “It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly.”