Zamperini, inspiration for Jolie`s `Unbroken`, dies at 97

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 03, 2014, 18:49 PM IST

Los Angeles: Louis Zamperini, whose life as a Olympic distance runner turned World War II prisoner of war surviver inspired Angelina Jolie`s upcoming film `Unbroken`, has died at the age of 97.

Zamperini was the subject of Lauren Hillenbrand`s book, `Unbroken`, which is being adapted into a film by Coen brothers with Jolie directing, reported the Wrap.
"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," Zamperini`s 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."
Jolie, who met the war veteran before beginning the shoot, called his death an impossible loss.
"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," the actress-director said.
"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," Universal Pictures said in a statement.
At 19, Zamperini became the youngest-ever American Olympic qualifier for for the 5,000 meters. He placed eighth in the event at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, but his final lap of 56 seconds brought him to the notice of Adolf Hitler, who met him.
Zamperini enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1941. He survived a plane crash in the Pacific theater, spending 74 days on a raft before finally reaching land, where he and his fellow survivor were captured by the Japanese Navy. He spent the next two and a half years as an unofficial prisoner of war while US declared him killed in action.
In 1998, Zamperini ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Japan, where he had been a prisoner of war during World War II. He was scheduled to be the grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
Jack O`Connell portrays Zamperini in the film, which will release in theatres this Christmas.