Berlin: Lionsgate in Final Talks for Mel Gibson's 'Hacksaw Ridge' (Exclusive)

Andrew Garfield, Mel Gibson
AP Images/Invision

Andrew Garfield stars as World War II hero Desmond T. Doss in the movie.

Lionsgate is in final talks for North American rights to Hacksaw Ridge, a World War II drama starring Andrew Garfield and returning Mel Gibson to the director's chair for the first time since Apocalypto in 2006.

The project was a huge draw at the Berlin Film Festival, where CAA fielded interest from U.S. buyers on behalf of the producers, including Bill Mechanic and David Permut. At the the same time, IM Global, which is handling Hacksaw Ridge internationally, launched the project to foreign buyers, closing a raft of presale deals around the world.

Per the terms of the reported $10 million to $12 million pact, Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson's Cross Creek Pictures and Demarest Films will co-finance the $45 million film, and release the picture domestically through an imminent partnership with Lionsgate. Demarest is run by Sam Englebardt and Bill Johnson. (Some put the Hacksaw deal closer to $15 million).

Hacksaw Ridge stars Garfieldas real-life war hero Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, who became the first conscientious objector in American military history to receive the Medal of Honor even though he refused to bear arms on religious grounds.

Doss made himself a legend when saving 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa. He helped evacuate the wounded near enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers on the field, and in one overnight battle, was wounded by a grenade and later hit by a sniper while saving grunts. Doss also received two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.

Despite its American storyline, Stuart Ford's IM Global had no trouble at EFM preselling rights in a number of territories, including Germany, Spain, Korea and Latin America. The wild success of American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, no doubt gives buyers everywhere confidence in war hero-themed storylines.

Berlin kicked off with Lionsgate paying a reported $7 million for rights to Freeheld, a drama starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page that's now in post. And new U.S. distributor Broad Green Pictures plunked down $6.5 million for a pair of films from Terrence Malick, including Knight of Cups, which is playing in competition at the festival.

Hacksaw has been more than 13 years in the making and was originally set up at Disney. Permut and Mechanic have remained committed throughout, and the project was given new life when Cross Creek came aboard to finance and co-produce.

Hacksaw Ridge is written by Robert Schenkkan and We Were SoldiersRandall Wallace.

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