ANGELINA Jolie has praised Jack O’Connell’s presence in front of the camera for her upcoming film Unbroken as a ‘gift’.
The movie – Jolie’s third as director – is set during the Second World War and tells the true story of Olympic track star and war hero Louis Zamperini.
The story is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.
Speaking at the Hollywood Film Awards, Jolie said of O'Connell's audition: "The auditions were very intense, and none more so than [in] the cell.
"In the cell, the actors would be confined, not knowing if he would be there for three minutes or an hour. A crew member with a rubber baton would go in at unexpected times and hit the actor.
"It didn't hurt, but the feeling would bring up the emotion of the loss of freedom, of control, the never knowing, the sense of powerlessness.
"All of the actors were so brave and many of the auditions were emotional and heartbreaking, and then came Jack. He went in the cell, he sat in the dark, he didn't force anything, he didn't act. He was just present," she said.
"He looked around the darkness, he felt the isolation, and he looked so young and vulnerable, and when he was hit, he took the beating, he ended up shaking from the feelings and he allowed his emotions to come forward."
Jolie, who presented O'Connell with the New Hollywood Award at the event, continued: "The second time he begged the guard to stop with tears in his eyes. And the third time, something happened. His eyes changed and he went against the script. And when the guard came in, he fought back. He just couldn't stay down.
"I showed that audition tape to Louis, and he smiled. As a director, to have Jack in front of your lens is a gift. He draws you in, he makes every moment honest. In his work, he gives all that he has..."
In his acceptance speech, O'Connell paid tribute to and dedicated his award to Zamperini.
He also thanked Jolie, saying: "My esteemed boss, and good friend, her ladyship, whose unconditional support and dedicated leadership, meant that I was capable of portraying our hero, under her captaincy. So Angelina, thank you."
Unbroken opens in cinemas on December 26 2015