HOLLYWOOD – Friday's announcement that Angelina Jolie would not appear at the Los Angeles premiere of “Unbroken” because she's currently suffering from a rare bout of chicken pox was met with skepticism by some, but after attending the event Monday night, we believe it. No matter what happened last week after Jolie found herself unwittingly in the crosshairs of the Sony hacking scandal, she would have wanted to be at the Dolby Theater for this.
Universal Pictures realized long ago this was going to be a special moment for the family of Louis Zamperini, a man who spent almost 50 years attempting to get his inspiring story on the big screen. Many of them live in Southern California and were well-represented in the audience. Zamperini passed away in July at the age of 97, just missing the chance to see the finished film (Jolie showed him a rough cut shortly before he died). It was clear, though, that while the event was taking place in the same theater that plays host to the Academy Awards, this premiere was much more about Zamperini's legacy than trying to court Oscar voters.
The most touching moment of the night, however, and one Jolie would have wanted to be there to see, was when producer Matthew Baer introduced 20 World War II veterans and two surviving POWs from the Japanese camps Zamperini was held in. They all received immediate and spontaneous standing ovations from the Dolby Theater's audience.
Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley read a statement from Jolie that read, in part:
“…I'm happily at home looking out my window at the home he lived in. I'm giving thanks for having known such a special man and I'm giving all of you in the theater tonight my thoughts. Everyone who worked tirelessly on the film to bring his story to life, everyone who has come to support, veterans of World War II, Louie's brothers-in-arms, we salute you, athletes who understand and share in his fighting spirit and endurance, special people who have overcome obstacles and represent the spirit of what it is to be unbroken. I smile most of all thinking that among you tonight are Louie's children and his grandson, Phil's daughter, Clarence Douglas' grandson and many family members for which this story is very personal. Louie always said, 'Don't make a film to show how extraordinary I was, make a film to remind everyone how extraordinary they are.' Everyone has greatness in them. This film is his message to each of you. So, long after the rights to the film first sold in 1956, we are happy to finally say, here is 'Unbroken.'”
Also on hand, although strangely not brought on stage before the film, were stars Jack O'Connell, Miyavi and Garrett Hedlund (who brought Kirsten Dunst). They were all quite popular with the military personnel at the after party in the Ray Dolby Ballroom following the screening.
And, as promised, Jolie's husband Brad Pitt gave the paparazzi their moment on the red carpet as he brought their kids Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt and Maddox Jolie-Pitt to see the movie. Pitt and his children were the center of attention while at the after party and even stopped to take some photos with a number of attendees.
“Unbroken” opens nationwide on Christmas Day.