Page 3 Profile: Louis Zamperini, former Olympian

 

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The Independent Online

There’s a new man in Angelina Jolie’s life?

Yes. Fear not though, she hasn’t chucked Brad Pitt. Jolie is directing a new film, Unbroken, based on the life of Louis Zamperini.

Zamperini? Never heard of him...

Expect that to change this December. Mr Zamperini, who is now 97, is a former Olympic long-distance runner who survived as a prisoner of war in Japan. In earlier days he finished eighth in the Berlin Olympics but completed his final lap of the track so quickly that Hitler insisted on a personal meeting.

Quite a life story...

Yes, and the film details his sheer determination and spirit. Mr Zamperini was enlisted in the US Air Force in 1941 only for his bomber plane to crash a year later. He survived 47 days in shark-infested waters before reaching land where he was captured. He was held until 1945 at a series of prisoner-of-war camps, where he was tortured and subjected to psychological abuse.

Presumably, those scars remain?

Mr Zamperini suffered post-traumatic stress disorder but later converted to Christianity and launched a career as a speaker. He has even gone so far as to visit his former prison guards to let them know that he has forgiven them.

That’s where Ms Jolie comes in?

Yes, Jolie has said she feels that Zamperini’s inspirational story offers a beacon of hope in troubled times. “[The world] can seem hopeless and it can seem very overwhelming. But the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is an extraordinary thing,” she said. The feeling’s mutual. In a recent interview Zamperini referred to her as “honey” and “my gal”, and she replied “I love you”. We’ll wait to see where it goes from here.

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