The ‘Unbroken’ Survival Story: Louis Zamperini Book To Film
Louis Zamperini has some serious survival skills, more so than anything Liam Neeson comes up with in The Grey. Yes, yes we know its not really the actor that manifests the skills, but if (and when is more likely the question) Louis Zamperini’s story as a bombardier during WWII, anything’s possible. An Olympic runner, who becomes an airman and whose plan disappears into the Pacific Ocean spending years of surviving on his skills (being an quick thief during his youth was especially helpful.
Here’s some brief history about Zamperini through Lauren Hillenbrand’s novel Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption:
Telling the story of Zamperini, “as a bombardier during World War II. When a plane he is piloting disappears into the Pacific Ocean, years of starvation, imprisonment and brutality follow.” From Torrance, California, he was known as the “Artful Dodger”, described as a “serial runaway; he was a brawler; he was a prankster.”
Stealing edible food and breaking into family kitchers for a meal, finally he spent his time and became the “fastest high-school runner in history and an American record holder in the mile.” Eventually heading to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where Adolf Hitler complimented his speed.
During Pearl Harbor, Zamperini became a bombardier, “serving in the Pacific theater during World War II. The bombers of the time had technical problems and limited navigation abilities, and as a result Zamperini was at high risk even when he wasn’t in combat.” in May 1943, Zamperini and his crew were flying a B-24 rattletrap known as the “Green Hornet” and began to fall apart, ditching it in the Ocean, Zamperini and crew survived on a poorly equipped raft with very few amnemities (a few cans of waters, a few bars of chocolate, screwdrivers, and a set of pliers).
Making rain catchers, snagging some birds and fish for food and wrestling sharks with pliers after invading their raft. We’re not kidding, its all in the biographical book by Hillenbrand. Taking them 47 days to reach land by a Japanese boat, they were sent to prison camps, miraculously surviving the very poor conditions. In addition to physical brutality, he and the crew were subject to medical experiments by Mutsuhiro Watanabe, also known as “The Bird.” (“Watanabe didn’t want to be spoken about, so they chose fake names for all of their captors,” Hillenbrand explains.)
Eventually, Zamperini and his crew planned a to murder their captor. Surviving and returning to California, Zamperini had to cope with his experiences, effectively suffering to what we describe today as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And so, Zamperini
Living in the midst of war, Zamperini knew exactly what he had to do to survive. Living in peace, however, was another story. Zamperini would eventually head to Japan in 1998 to carry the Olympic torch during the Nagano Winter Olympics games, carrying the torch through Noetsi, a town he had been held prisoner in.
Such a storied past create an involving dynamic for any actor to thoroughly research and portray with justified honor, resiliance to physical torment, as well as coping with the possibility of death. We’d like to suggest three notable actors who could possibly take up the part and bring such a story to the silver screen:
Top Pick: Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Zamperini
If anything, we know Jake Gyllenhaal (as an actor) has been through this type of material before with Jarhead. Not that far off a stretch, in terms of broad stroke experiences, Gyllenhaal could provide a very solid foundation as Zamperini.
Alternate Pick: Ryan Gosling as Louis Zamperini
He’s the golden boy, the chosen, the actor who always brings something interesting to the table. Gosling is most likely the perfect choice to play Zamperini, surely bringing all the various emotional experiences to a head and giving us a (possibly) very nuanced portrait of a soldier in the process of having his emotional, physical and mental state fractured to then suffer from PTSD.
Long Shot: Casey Affleck as Louis Zamperini
Finally, I’d like to suggest Casey Affleck. Although the lesser seen Affleck brother, Casey is as formidable as his older brother in the male lead category. Gone Baby Gone, Good Will Hunting, The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, etc etc. His physique would pretty much run in line as a runner and a pilot, but his physique would be well below our interests in his performance as a man with surviving the world.