Angelina Jolie Once Said There Doesn't Need to Be a God for Her — inside Her Religious Beliefs

Manuela Cardiga
Sep 25, 2020
11:00 A.M.
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Angelina Jolie spoke about her religious beliefs when she directed the film "Unbroken" about a man who learned forgiveness through Christ. 


In 2014, actress and director Angelina Jolie released the film "Unbroken" which is based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, " Unbroken" about a former POW's journey through trauma to his finding God, and redemption through his faith.

Jolie's film was well-received by some critics, while others felt that the movie focused on Louis Zamperini's experiences in a Japanese POW camp, and left the central theme of his true story mostly untouched: his faith in God.

 After his return to the US, Zamperini was hailed as a hero, but would spend years battling with PTSD and self-medicating with alcohol

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the premiere of "A Mighty Heart" at the 60th International Cannes Film Festival in 2007 | Source: Getty Images



Jolie's suitability to direct a film about a man's redemption through faith was questioned, despite her skill, especially considering her own statements about religion in 2000:

“There doesn’t need to be a God for me. There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike.”



Consequently, there are only two moments in the film in which the question of faith is addressed. Also, Zamperini's conversion after attending a service conducted by evangelist Billy Graham in 1949, a focal moment in his life, is briefly touched on.

Jolie met with Zamperini, who passed away before the film's release, several times and showed him rough cuts. Still active and feisty at 97, Zamperini said:

“I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie. The gal really loves me. She hugs me and kisses me ’til I can’t complain.”

Louis Zamperini with his B-24D Liberator Super Man in Nauru, in April 1943 | Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Public domain


Zamperini's real story is extraordinary. Born and raised in Olean, New York, the young Zamperini became an extraordinary athlete and won his place in the US athletic team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

He did not win a gold medal, but he did shake hands with Adolf Hitler, who commented on his speed. When WWII broke out, Zamperini joined the Air Force and was granted a commission as a second lieutenant and posted to the South Pacific as a bombardier.

Angelina Jolie at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London in 2014 | Source: Getty Images


A petition was taken up in Japan seeking to ban "Unbroken" because it depicted the inhuman way the Japanese Imperial Army had treated POWs

In April 1943, while out on a search-and-rescue mission, his plane crashed into the ocean, and Zamperini and his two surviving crew members spent 47 days adrift at sea before being picked up by the Japanese.

Zamperini was to spend the next two years of his life in a Japanese POW camp and was systematically tormented by a prison guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known as "The Bird."  Zamperini was released but came home tormented by his hatred for his captors.

Angelina Jolie with her children Vivienne, Maddox, Pax, Knox, Shiloh, Zahara, and actors Kimhak Mun and Sareum Srey Moch at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 | Source: Getty Images


 After returning to the US, Zamperini was hailed as a hero but would spend years battling with PTSD and self-medicating with alcohol. He married and fathered two children, but divorce was imminent when his wife Cynthia convinced him to accompany her to a Billy Graham service.

The former bombardier found the strength to forgive his tormentors and overcome his addiction to alcohol through his faith in God and became an evangelist. He would travel to Japan and meet some of the prison guards from his POW camp, but "The Bird," who was unrepentant and became wealthy, refused to meet with him.



Jolie's film caused controversy. A petition was taken up in Japan seeking to ban "Unbroken" because it depicted the inhuman way the Japanese Imperial Army had treated POWs, completely ignoring the Geneva Convention.

Survivors and the families of survivors from South East Asia and the former Dutch East Indies protested and testified that the film was, in that respect, factual and that they or their families had suffered inhuman torments at the hands of the Japanese. After that, the film was released in Japan. "Unbroken" was also screened at the Vatican, and Jolie was introduced to Pope Francis.



Jolie's "Unbroken" was preceded by another war movie, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," set during the Bosnian war. In 2017, she directed her third war movie, "First They Killed My Father," about a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.


Jolie is the mother of six children, three adopted, and three biological whom she shares with ex-husband Brad Pitt: Maddox, 18, Pax, 15, Zahara, 14, Shiloh, 13, Vivienne, 11, and Knox, 11. 

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie on a truck with refugees en route from Kigoma to Lugufu Camp, Tanzania in 2003 | Source: Getty Images


The couple was in a relationship for 12 years, and their divorce became final in September of 2019. Like Jolie, Pitt considers himself an atheist, an agnostic at best.

Over the years, Jolie has battled several health issues and had a preventive mastectomy after discovering that she had inherited the BRCA1 gene from her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The latter died at the age of 56 from ovarian cancer.

Jolie is devoted to humanitarian causes and is an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She is also deeply involved in women's rights causes and promoting equal education for immigrant children.