Angelina Jolie's 'Unbroken' War Hero Louis Zamperini Dies

By JACKIE WILLIS

July 03, 2014

World War II hero Louis Zamperini, the man that inspired Angelina Jolie's Unbroken film, has passed away.

Zamperini died of pneumonia at the age of 97, Variety reported early Thursday morning. Jolie's movie, based on the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, follows his life as a Berlin Olympic distance runner in 1936 and his time as an Air Force bombardier and a POW in WWII following a crash in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean.

RELATED: Angelina Jolie-- The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

"It is a loss impossible to describe," Jolie said in a statement. "We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly."

Zamperini's family also made a statement, obtained by Variety, saying, "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."

Universal Pictures, who is distributing Unbroken, echoed similar sentiments: "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."

In February of this year, Jolie and Zamperini sat down with the TODAY show to chat about Unbroken, which hits theaters Christmas Day. Jolie said of the passion project, "[I feel] such a huge responsibility to get it right, because I love [Zamperini] so much, and because he's helped me so much in my life."

She added, "[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."

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



More On: Angelina Jolie

You might like...