TODAY   |  February 25, 2014

Jolie: New film is ‘hardest thing I’ve ever done’

Angelina Jolie speaks exclusively to NBC’s Tom Brokaw about directing “Unbroken,” a film that profiles World War II hero and former Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini. “The resilience and the strength of the human spirit is an extraordinary thing,” the Academy Award-winning actress says of the project.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with a rare and exclusive interview with oscar winner angelina jolie . she's on a u.n. visit this week. before she left hollywood , sat down with tom brokaw and talked about a man she likes to call her new love. tom, good morning, it's good to see you.

>> we all know that angelina jolie is the real deal when it comes to refugee crisis. when she comes back, she's going to dive into one of the greatest american stories of the 20th century . and this one is in her own backyard.

>> this is one of those only in hollywood stories.

>> hi. hey.

>> oh, my gal. i miss you. i miss you, honey.

>> i love you.

>> legendary world war ii hero, louis and one of the most famous women in the world, angelina jolie , the hot new couple.

>> oh, my. what a man.

>> he became famous almost 80 years ago and then again when his phenomenal life story appeared in the big best seller "unbroken." now 97, a young zamporini --

>> i've been studying world war ii for a long time. you're the only person i've ever met who met hitler after you had that dramatic finish in the 1,500 meters. what did he say to you?

>> all he said was the boy with the fast finish. that was it, and i couldn't really shake hands . he was up pretty high. i just reached up and touched his hand.

>> but that was just one fleeting moment in a legendary american life . unbroken, the film, will come to the big screen later this year. and angelina jolie is the director.

>> you trained, you fight harder than those other guys and you win.

>> just watching the two of you, i'll bet this is not just a filmmaker for you. this becomes really personal.

>> very.

>> because you've got the legacy of this amazing man in your hands and on the big screen .

>> such a huge responsibility to get it right. i love him so much and he's helped me so much in my life.

>> during world war ii , his bomber was shot down in the pacific, 47 days in a raft, subjected to barbaric war crimes in the japanese p.o.w. camp. he was thought lost forever, declared dead, and now decades later, he's here to see his life story brought to the screen by a hollywood superstar.

>> did you find the book on your own? or did somebody send it to you?

>> i wanted to direct something again, but i -- i wasn't sure what. and i wanted -- it had to be something i would love and care about. it takes much more time away from your family and much more effort than acting.

>> it might surprise you just how difficult it was even for angelina jolie to get a green light .

>> this has been the hardest thing i've ever done. had all the hours of phone calls and things and made all these boards. i took my glue and tape and pictures off the internet and tried to -- and i put all my boards in a garbage bag and carried them to universal and put them out. and i pitched my butt off.

>> you want to send a message here, as well?

>> for me, i think louis 's been very clear about what his message is and the book. and i think for my children and everybody in the world, i want to be able to say, it can seem dark and hopeless and very overwhelming. but the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is an extraordinary thing.

>> when she finally got word she would direct the film "unbroken," she couldn't wait to meet louis .

>> where is he? is he around? i think somebody said he lives where you live.

>> from louis 's patio, you can literally see across to angelina's home. they were neighbors and never had a clue.

>> this was meant to be because your girlfriend lives in the neighborhood.

>> yeah, i can show you my roof from the window. i imagine that for the last ten something years he's been sitting there having a coffee in the morning and wondering who's going to make this movie. and i've been sitting in my room laying there thinking, what am i supposed to be doing with my life? i want to do something important. i want to connect. i need some help, need some guidance. where is it? and it was right outside my window.

>> he's 97 years old, it's really remarkable. and when she gets back to los angeles , angelina will resume working on "unbroken," at universal studios . and we will be following up with her in the coming months. scheduled to be released at christmas.

>> what a story, what a privilege to bring his story to the screen. and since we have you here. so many people thinking about you. how are you doing?

>> i'm okay.

>> you look good. tom, thank you.