Louis Zamperini is a hero, no question about it. From Olympian to POW, his story is one for the ages, one laid out on the page beautifully by author Laura Hillenbrand in the book "Unbroken" and adapted by filmmaker Angelina Jolie in a film that will be released later this year. But just six months shy of seeing that life story writ large on the big screen for movie fans the world over to learn about his struggle, Zamperini has passed away, having lived a long and full 97 years.
Here is his family's statement, conveyed by "Unbroken" distributor Universal Pictures:
"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."
A statement from the studio:
"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. Confronting challenges that would cause most of us to surrender, Louie always persevered and always prevailed, and he spent the better part of his lifetime sharing the message that you could do the same. His example of grace, dignity and resilience inspired all of us lucky enough to know him and the millions who got to know him from the pages of Laura's book. We move forward to the release of 'Unbroken' with a renewed sense of responsibility in bringing Louie's abundant life and indomitable spirit to the screen. Now more than ever, we join Angelina in honoring the lessons and legacy of this extraordinary man who has meant so much to so many."
And from Jolie:
"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."
Here at In Contention, we look forward to covering the upcoming film and celebrating his life with Universal, Jolie and actor Jack O'Connell, who was tasked with the gargantuan duty of portraying Zamperini on screen.