From his Academy Award-winning Braveheart to The Patriot, We Were Soldiers, The Passion of Christ and Apocalypto, Mel Gibson has always excelled at telling an epic story with compelling realism. In his first directorial effort in a decade, Gibson helms Hacksaw Ridge from a tightly crafted screenplay by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, bringing to dramatic life the true story of conscientious objector and Army medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). When finding a way to live by his values meant refusing to bear arms in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, Doss redefined what it meant to be a war hero.
With Hacksaw Ridge opening in theaters nationwide on November 4th and one of the most anticipated movies of the Oscar season, Collider had an opportunity recently to sit down with the filmmakers at a press conference in Los Angeles. The film features an exciting cast and a riveting story. Without giving away too much, we’ve put together a list of 15 things we learned from talking with Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight, and producers David Permut and Bill Mechanic about their new film:
1) Screenwriters Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight wanted to do justice to Desmond Doss and the other real life heroes portrayed in the film. Their screenplay hewed as close to the factual record as possible in portraying what transpired on Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of World War II.
“We had, of course, the transcripts of the very excellent interviews that had been done with Desmond,” says Schenkkan. “Then, Andrew and I both dived deeply into the military records which are available. There’s a lot been written on the Okinawa campaign and the Medics. There is a lot of information available out there and we certainly took advantage of that because we wanted to be accurate. We wanted to pay tribute to what these individuals went through. It was very important to us.”
2) Director Mel Gibson wanted the war situation to be realistic because the battle for Okinawa resulted in the greatest loss of life in the South Pacific during World War II and the hellishness of war was pivotal to the story of Doss’s faith and heroism.
“The Japanese described it as a ‘steel rain of bullets and explosions’ and napalm was used,” says Gibson, “so I wanted to make it real. It also highlights what it means for a man with conviction and faith to go into a situation that is a hell on earth, that reduces most men to the level of animals. In the midst of that maelstrom, this man is able to hone his spirituality into something higher, above war, above religion, above everything. He goes in and performs acts of love in the midst of hell, which is the beauty of the story and it’s the pinnacle of heroism.”