Universal acquires Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken

From DHD – Having scored once with Seabiscuit, another Laura Hillenbrand bestseller, it only makes sense that Universal has acquired Hillenbrand’s latest bestseller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The studio is in talks with Francis Lawrence (Water for ElephantsI Am Legend) to direct, and wants Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) to pen the adaptation. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff will produce; Mick Garris (Zamperini’s son-in-law) will exec produce.

Interestingly enough, the story of Zamperini’s life has been on Universal’s radar for more than 50 years – the studio bought Zamperini’s life rights back in 1957 along with his memoir, Devil at My Heels, but the project never managed to get off the ground. Now Hillenbrand’s novel seems to be making a convincing argument.

And what a story it is – Unbroken follows Zamperini’s life, from a Depression Era troublemaker, to an Olympic track prodigy, to World War II Air Force bombardier, to POW in Japan. Starved, subjected to medical experiments, slave labor, and brutal beatings by guards, Zamperini was specifically targeted by a sadistic overseer named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, called “The Bird” by the POWs, who made it his mission to break Zamperini – but he never suceeded. After the war, Zamperini returned home, only to be haunted by The Bird in his nightmares until  he discovered the preachings of Billy Graham and decided to forgive all of his captors – and suddenly the nightmares were gone. Zamperini later even traveled back to Japan and met with most of the guards, to forgive them in person.

Talk about an epic story…

Book Jacket:

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

You can read an excerpt here.