Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, who is the subject of director Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
, has passed away at the age of 97.
The Zamperini family said: "Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge. He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days."
Jolie, who is pictured with Zamperini, added that "it is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly."
The film's distributor, Universal Pictures, released the following statement: "We are so profoundly sad at this moment and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Zamperini family. Louis was truly one of a kind. 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. Confronting challenges that would cause most of us to surrender, Louie always persevered and always prevailed, and he spent the better part of his lifetime sharing the message that you could do the same. His example of grace, dignity and resilience inspired all of us lucky enough to know him and the millions who got to know him from the pages of Laura's book. We move forward to the release of 'Unbroken' with a renewed sense of responsibility in bringing Louie's abundant life and indomitable spirit to the screen. Now more than ever, we join Angelina in honoring the lessons and legacy of this extraordinary man who has meant so much to so many."
is an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's ("Seabiscuit: An American Legend") enormously popular book, Unbroken
brings to the big screen Zamperini's unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit.
The film, which was planning on releasing a new trailer very shortly, is scheduled to open in theaters on December 25.