Universal has snapped up the rights to Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s book about Olympic/World War Two POW hero Louis Zamperini, with I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence now in talks to direct the eventual film.
Zamperini’s story might not be quite as well known as that of some other World War Two veterans, but his is one that definitely deserves to be told. Hillenbrand’s book, subtitled A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, charts his rise from scrappy street kid to record-setting track star who won a place on the 1936 Olympic team.
While that might be enough for some films, that’s only the start of Zamperini’s experiences. While he didn’t win medals at the event, he did catch the eye of Adolf Hitler, who asked to meet the man. And then, when the US entered the war, Zamperini enlisted as a bombardier in the Air Force. His plane crashed while on a mission and he survived 47 days adrift in dangerous waters, only to be picked up by the Japanese, who flung him into a prison camp and proceeded to torture him. Though he was liberated at the end of the war, he faced a fresh battle to overcome the psychological scarring of his time in prison.
Hillenbrand and Universal have form with such hard-luck-turned-heroic tales, since she wrote Seabiscuit, the book that the studio adapted into a film back in 2003. For Unbroken, the executives are apparently looking at Crazy Heart writer/director Scott Cooper to scribble the script.
And when it comes to Zamperini’s tale, Universal is clearly a studio on a mission: it has tried for years, even decades to get the heroic story to the screen. It bought up the rights to the man’s autobiography and developed it as a possible starring role for Tony Curtis. More recently, Brad Pitt and Nic Cage have spearheaded a version at the studio, with Cage looking to nab the lead role. Finally, while it might seem like an odd turn for the director of Constantine and I Am Legend, Lawrence has branched out with romantic drama Water for Elephants, which sees Robert Pattinson falling in love with a pachyderm. Or Reese Witherpoon's circus type. Something like that, anyway...