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Angelina Jolie was joined by husband Brad Pitt at the world premiere of her sophomore feature as a director, the Louis Zamperini biopic Unbroken at a traffic-stopping event at Sydney’s historic State Theatre Monday night.
Jolie, who stunned in a strapless floor-length black lace Gucci gown, and Pitt worked the Sydney street for half an hour before the screening, taking innumerable selfies with fans who turned out to see the pair.
Unbroken stars Jack O’Connell and Japanese actor and musician Miyavi joined producer Matt Baer, Jolie and Pitt at the black tie event as did Sydney natives and fellow Hollywood filmmakers George Miller, John Seale, Don McAlpine and Jan Chapman.
Jolie said she was thrilled to bring the premiere of the film, which is garnering Oscar buzz, back to Australia after shooting the film in Sydney and other locations around the country a year ago. But she admitted the scope and emotional intensity of the film was “an extraordinary challenge” for her as a director.
Unbroken tells the story of Zamperini (O’Connell), an Olympic runner and World War Two veteran who was interred in a brutal Japanese prisoner of war camp after surviving 47 days stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a raft.
“I knew I was drawn to this story, but I didn’t realize how much I needed it and how much it would change my life. Louis made me think differently about life and how to survive things, but as a director, it was really difficult, an extraordinary challenge,” Jolie told THR.
“You are dealing with real history, which is difficult but also pleasure because you get an education. But technically, this film is very demanding. It has hundreds of visual effects, it has a shark attack, plane crashes, even the [Olympic] races,” she said.
“I remember waking up one morning thinking ‘How do I shoot a race?’ There’s a specific way a director does that, and I’m not sure I’m ready, so I had to sit up for days and try and learn. You have so much to learn, from the speed of the flash in the B24 bombers flying, and I had to be the one to have the answer on it, so it was a great challenge,” said Jolie.
After many years developing Unbroken, Jolie and Baer were keen to communicate the message behind Zamperini’s experiences. “We wanted to shed light on a story like Louis’ to remind us all that there is a strength in each of us … that we can do anything.”
For his part, Baer told THR Jolie was “a blessing and a dream for the project. She had a very clear vision from the start. We assembled an amazing team of actors, writers and cinematographer Roger Deakins. Angelina was the best thing that could have happened to Unbroken and my own journey in trying to get Louis Zamperini’s story told.”
“Angelina directed something that’s very much in keeping with the spirit of Louis,” O’Connell added.
Unbroken will be released in the U.S. on Dec. 25
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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures