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'Unbroken' director Angelina Jolie pays tribute to the late Louis Zamperini

Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini
Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini
Universal Pictures

"Unbroken" director Angelina Jolie has released a statement following the death of Louis Zamperini, who died of pneumonia at age 97. Universal Pictures (the studio behind "Unbroken") announced Zamperini's death on July 3, 2014. "Unbroken" is based on Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling 2010 biography of the same name, which tells the story of how Olympic athlete Zamperini survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean and then captivity as prisoner of war during World War II. The "Unbroken" movie is set for release in the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 25, 2014. Jack O'Connell has the role of Zamperini in the "Unbroken" movie, which is Jolie's second film as a director.

In a statement released to the public, Jolie commented on Zamperini's death: "It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly."

Universal Pictures released this statement: "We are so profoundly sad at this moment and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Zamperini family. Louis was truly one of a kind. He lived the most remarkable life, not because of the many unbelievable incidents that marked his near century's worth of years, but because of the spirit with which he faced every one of them."

Zamperini's family commented in this message: "Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge. He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days."

In March 2014, Jolie made an appearance CinemaCon (the annual Las Vegas convention for movie theaters/exhibitors) to preview footage from "Unbroken." According to Entertainment Weekly, Jolie had this to say at CinemaCon about Zamperini and the "Unbroken" movie: “Louis Zamperini is the toughest man I have ever met. A fighter and a true hero. A man full of faith and humility. But he wasn’t always perfect. Smoking, stealing and drinking from the time he was 9. He was convinced he was worth nothing and full of darkness.

“In the end, its message is one we all need now more than ever — the journey of a man finding his way through the darkness and into the light. It’s about an imperfect person… someone who helps to remind us all what each of us is capable of.”

Jolie (who won an Oscar for her supporting role in 1999's "Girl, Interrupted") made her directorial debut with the 2011 war drama "In the Land of Blood and Honey." She also wrote the movie's screenplay.

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