Coen Brothers Take Unbroken

Re-writing the script for Angelina Jolie

Joel and Ethan Coen, Oscars

Shortly before Christmas last year, Angelina Jolie announced that she had locked in the next film she wanted to direct. Her chosen project was Unbroken, a story of perseverance and stamina based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book. Today the Coen brothers have signed on to re-write the script.

Hillenbrand’s book, subtitled A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption, follows Lou Zamperini, an LA high school track star who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During World War II, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific. He survived without food and water for 47 days, enduring shark attacks, strafings and hunger, until 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.

The story has been slogging its way through development since Universal picked it up in 2011 in its latest attempt to bring Zamperini’s journey to the screen. Francis Lawrence was originally attached and William Nicholson most recently wrote a draft of the script. Now the brothers Coen have the job.

"I read Laura Hillenbrand's brilliant book", Jolie said when she took on the director’s job, "and I was so moved by Louie Zamperini's heroic story, I immediately began to fight for the opportunity to make this film. Louie is a true hero and a man of immense humanity, faith and courage. I am deeply honoured to have the chance to tell his inspiring story.”

It’s rare for Joel and Ethan to take on scripting work for other people, but they do it occasionally, including, most recently, Gambit. Their latest directorial gig, Inside Llewyn Davis, has been bought by CBS Films with a US release planned for December.