War hero Zamperini, inspiration for book and film 'Unbroken,' dead at 97
Former Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini in a November 2011 file image. Zamperini died July 2 at 97. (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Zamperini died Wednesday after a 40-day bout with pneumonia, his family said in a statement released by Universal Pictures, the studio behind the film.
The film, which is to open Dec. 25, is based on the best-selling 2010 book “Unbroken” by author Laura Hillenbrand on the life of Zamperini, particularly the harrowing time he spent as a prisoner of war under the Japanese.
After the 1940 Olympics were canceled because of the war, Zamperini enlisted as a U.S. Army airman and began flying missions as an officer and bombardier over the Pacific in late 1942.
“Louis was truly one of a kind,” Universal Pictures said. “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 May, Zamperini was named grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade, in Pasadena, Calif.
“We will remember and honor the courage and grace that made Louis who he was, and hope that by sharing his life’s story, we can uphold the values which built his strength, perseverance and his ability to forgive others,” the organization said in a statement.
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