In a recent interview with ‘Variety’, Angelina Jolie, director of the upcoming film ‘Unbroken‘ revealed more details about the film, due for release on the 25th of December.
Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic Runner who became a prisoner of war during World War II when his plane went down in the Pacific. He was lost at sea for 47 days before being sent to a Japanese prison camp. In the two years he was there, he was starved and beaten – particularly by a man known as ‘The Bird’ – a Japanese officer named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who seemed to take a particular interest in torturing Zamperini.
Jolie confesses that creating ‘Unbroken’ was a long and challenging journey. The film, based on a book, had been picked up multiple times in the past by various directors but for one reason or another, never made the screen. Jolie herself took the role of director with both hands and in searching for the perfect people to perform the roles of Zamperini and Watanabe, she confesses it was difficult. Particularly Watanabe.
The role of Zamperini was filled by British actor, Jack O’Connell (24) best known for his work in the popular British series ‘Skins’. According to Cynthia Garris – the daughter of Zamperini, O’Connell stood out for her for a multitude of reasons but during one particular scene when Zamperini was being attacked by a guard, O’Connell was the only one who actually fought back. However according to Jolie, finding someone to fill the role of Watanabe seemed impossible. Mutsuhiro Watanabe is a difficult role to fill. He was a very moody man, violent and cruel towards his prisoners, described in the book as a ‘beautifully crafted monster’. Jolie mentioned she needed to find someone whose presence was powerful but that person needed to also be in a healthy mindset in order to be able to do the things that Watanabe does. It’s a dark place to go to and it’s a tall order, not easily filled.
She mentioned that early on in the search, she’d considered finding a rock star. “There’s a confidence that comes from someone who’s a frontman,” she maintains. “It’s a very unusual thing to be able to be in front of thousands of people and have your presence affect a room.”
With the help of casting director, Yoro Narahashi, she found singer-songwriter Miyavi (33).
The singer admitted initially hesitating upon playing such a character as he feared it would reflect badly on the Japanese public. However after meeting Jolie, he was glad and confident to be part of the project.
However the role of Watanabe was not easy, according to the article Miyavi was reported as running off set to vomit as soon as Jolie shouted ‘cut’. The role was emotionally draining for the singer and it made him ‘violently ill to inflict so much anger and damage’
O’Connell also confessed to suffering quite a bit for the role as well, having lost 30 pounds and had to quickly bulk back up for scenes where Zamperini had to run. Although they play enemies onscreen, Miyavi and O’Connell formed a friendly relationship, supporting each other through their roles. Miyavi has also confessed he has an interest in acting again as ‘Unbroken’ will be his international debut in professional acting.
Although the inspiration and root of this film, Louis Zamperini himself, passed away on the 2nd of July 2014, Jolie is confident the film will do his life justice and promises that anyone who reads his book will feel very connected to him and his life.