In Louis Zamperini’s updated autobiography of 2003, he expressed a deep desire that his conversion experience be a significant part of any movie made about his life. The Lord had saved him out a life of post-war recurring nightmares and hateful resentment through a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in 1949.
On page 272 and 273 of his updated autobiography, Zamperini wrote:
After the (first) publication of my book (autobiography, Devil at My Heels) I got a call from Universal Pictures, telling me that Tony Curtis wanted to play me and had asked them to buy the book. I was about to sell my house and I needed some cash to purchase a new one in the hills, so I agreed. Universal drew up a contract, but when I read it I said it wasn’t good enough.
“That’s a standard Hollywood contract,” they said. “It’s all we can give you.”
I knew they could give me whatever I wanted, and they probably thought I wanted more money. I didn’t. “I need money to buy a new house,” I explained, “But that’s not the problem. Money is not as important as a guarantee not to minimize my conversion or its influence on my life. I have to have some protection for my faith.”
I told him that they’d made a picture called Battle Hymn in which Rock Hudson played Colonel Dean Hess. A World War II flying ace, the real Hess came home and joined the ministry; then they drafted him back into the Korean War and nobody knew he was a minister. I knew Hess, and he had told me, “If they ever make a movie of your life, get a separate contract to protect your faith. I have to live with my movie for the rest of my life, and believe me, it’s not pleasant. Don’t let them do it to you.”
I didn’t want much, just a moment to show Christ as in Isaiah 9:6, as both God and Savior. The producer wrote a couple drafts of the contract, but Cynthia and I turned them both down until he came up with something we liked. ThenI made the deal and a script was commissioned. Tony Curtis went to Europe to make Spartacus, then to South America for another film. When he got back the script was ready, but I didn’t like it and neither did universal, so they put it on the back burner.
You can hear a 56 minute lecture on The Life of Louis Zamperini based on Devil at My Heels, here: