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Making harrowing ‘Unbroken,’ Angelina Jolie felt her own kind of fear

One of Hollywood’s most expressive actors admits that she experienced a foreign emotion on the set of her new film “Unbroken”: fear.

“This wasn’t just show up at work and cover it this way or that way,” Angelina Jolie said of directing the film version of the best-selling book about Olympian Louis Zamperini.

“This was a story that I had to understand and honor.”

Enter the fear.

“There were days when I just didn’t know if I would be able to track it all and accomplish it all,” she admitted. “We didn’t have that much money. We didn’t have that much time.

“It was a new kind of fear that in the end was exhilarating.”

In “Unbroken,” opening Thursday, Jack O’Connell plays Zamperini, who spent 47 harrowing days on a raft with two servicemen in World War II before he was captured by the Japanese navy and sent to a POW camp.

 

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Jolie, who had previously directed “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” logged many hours with Zamperini before his death on July 2 at age 97.

“Nothing was off limits. He told me every detail. He is just one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met,” she said. “Many people know his life and know the book. But when I would sit down with the man, something amazing happened for me.

“I didn’t know my grandparents or grow up with my father. There was something about just really getting to know an older man and getting his wisdom that was life-changing. He’s part of what’s known as the greatest generation, which is true.

“It’s not just that he was heroic or exceptional. I believe that he is part of an exceptionally strong-minded generation, and we must learn as much as possible from them in order to make this generation strong.”

She showed Zamperini the film in his hospital bed. “I had the honor of watching this beautiful man watch his life, which was a beautiful experience for me,” she said.

Jolie’s own strength was tested when she found out that she has the BRCA1 gene and a roughly 87 percent risk of contracting breast cancer. As a response, she had a preventable double mastectomy.

“It was a choice I made, and I was happy to have the option, the health care and the ability to make the choice to be here longer for my children,” she said. “It was a wonderful thing.”

Jolie is currently directing and starring in “By the Sea” with her husband, Brad Pitt. The story is set in France in the mid-’70s where Vanessa, a former dancer, and her husband, Roland, a writer, travel the country while seemingly growing apart. Along the way, they stop in a seaside town where they get involved with a local café keeper and hotel owner.

She is happy that her children were able to see her family-friendly “Maleficent” earlier this year. “I wanted to do something that my children could see,” she said. “I wanted to have fun and explore different art and performance in a way that I hadn’t done in the past.

“I think in life it’s great to jump into things you’re not sure of. It’s good to scare yourself as an artist.”

As for balancing career and her children, she said, “They home-school, so we travel everywhere together. And when I feel I’m doing too much, I do less if I can.

“I’m in a rare position where I don’t have to do job after job. That’s the nice thing about being a director. I can say, ‘I only get into the editing room when my kids are in school, and I have to be back for dinner.’ ”

Big Picture News Inc.