Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has passed away at the age of 97, just six months before Angelina Jolie's biopic of the man, "Unbroken," hits the screen.
Zamperini, played by Jack O'Connell in the film, was an Olympic athlete who 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. In an official statement, the Zamperini family says:
"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. 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."
In the same statement, Jolie herself adds:
"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."
Finally, Universal Pictures also released a 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.
Confronting challenges that would cause most of us to surrender, Louie always persevered and always prevailed, and he spent the better part of his lifetime sharing the message that you could do the same. His example of grace, dignity and resilience inspired all of us lucky enough to know him and the millions who got to know him from the pages of Laura's book.
We move forward to the release of 'Unbroken' with a renewed sense of responsibility in bringing Louie's abundant life and indomitable spirit to the screen. Now more than ever, we join Angelina in honoring the lessons and legacy of this extraordinary man who has meant so much to so many."
The film is still on track for a Christmas Day release with a new trailer expected to go online shortly.
Source: Universal Pictures