'Unbroken' actor talks taking on role of Louis Zamperini

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'Unbroken' tells the story of local war hero Louis Zamperini, and a young actor has taken on the challenging role.

"Unbroken" tells the story of local war hero Louis Zamperini, and a young actor has taken on the challenging role.

Zamperini was one-time Torrance High School track star, who went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics. He then went on to fight in World War II.

When his plane had trouble and crashed in the ocean, he and two others were trapped on a raft for 47 days. They were eventually discovered by the Japanese. Zamperini then became a prisoner of war.

Director Angelina Jolie hired actor Jack O'Connell to play Zamperini. She needed someone with a strong spirit and a good soul.

"I am in awe of Louis. I am a huge fan of Mr. Zamperini's, and I will continue to be throughout my life. And I will do whatever I can to pass his story on to generations that might otherwise have no exposure, particularly if it wasn't for this film," he said.

O'Connell spent time with the Zamperini to prepare for the role.

"I had to meet him, and I got to connect with him, just to see how his brain ticked, and where he was neutrally. Because there is one thing meeting someone for the first time. I wanted to work out his ugly parts as well, we're dealing with an actual human being, and he's got to have ugly sides too," O'Connell said.

O'Connell learned every bit he could about a man whose life amazed him.

"Louis is particularly charismatic and charming, and so I was more than happy to adopt that in him and I guess fill in the gaps. Whatever I didn't feel like I discovered through meeting him, Angelina helped me to fill in the gaps," he said.

In one scene, the prison commander insists Zamperini be punished by his fellow prisoners. It's a tough moment to witness.

"In fact, just after the 200 man punch, I perhaps shouldn't have done this, but I couldn't resist. I just put my hand up right at the end and requested nine more, nine more. But, bless, the whole encampment --there's like 200 extras there and a crew of maybe 50 -- applauded. That was a real profile moment in my career," O'Connell said.

"Unbroken" is rated PG-13.

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