Angelina Jolie’s new film Unbroken sees her lead actor Jack O’Connell portray the incredible story of Louis Zamperini. The former Olympic athlete spent 47 days drifting in the Pacific after his plane came down during the Second World War, only to be rescued by Japanese troops and incarcerated for two years in a brutal prisoner of war camp.
The camp is overseen by a ruthless prison guard, “The Bird”, played by Japanese popstar Miyavi (real name Takamasa Ishihara) in his acting debut. All the actors playing inmates had to lose a considerable amount of weight to reflect the harsh conditions of life in captivity – and Miyavi reveals Jolie showed her support by abstaining too.
“She came to the set every day, giving advice to the actors, and she actually didn’t eat much [either],” he tells RadioTimes.com.
“She was so thin because most of the actors were not able to eat because they’re prisoners in the prison camp. So she was so close to us.
“I really respect her professionalism, her attitude towards the creation – she’s so determined and passionate. It was intense on set but with her motivation and attitude we were on the same page.”
Jolie’s commitment to her actors didn’t end there. Leading man O’Connell has revealed the actor-turned-director tried out all of his stunts, which included spending hours supporting the weight of a heavy wooden plank above his head.
“She did test out all of my stunts before I had to do them,” he tells us. “The plank – I’m not sure if that can be regarded as a stunt – but, in any case, she was under it before I turned up on set.”
O’Connell passed out on two occasions after spending “a large portion of the day” filming the dramatic moment.
“I fainted twice. It’s quite a pinnacle moment. I didn’t actually hit the deck – it was one of those faints where my head had gone but my hands were still in front of me. But I had no vision, couldn’t really hear anything and then just gradually gained both of those senses back and then went back under [the plank]. And no surprise, the same problem happened – they perhaps thought it was best to call it a day then.”
Zamperini (above) passed away in July this year aged 97 but lived long enough to see a final cut of the film. “I heard he liked my hair and my run,” says O’Connell, “so as long as those two factors are in place. No acting notes but I guess no news is good news.”
Unbroken is released in UK cinemas on Boxing Day. Watch the trailer below:
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news