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After a 10-year hiatus, Mel Gibson is back in the director’s chair. His latest epic, Hacksaw Ridge, explores the true-life war drama of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the American Medal of Honor.
Andrew Garfield plays a Seventh-Day Adventist who feels it is his duty to serve during WWII, but at the same time can’t disobey his religious convictions against picking up arms. He overcomes the Army’s ridicule and scorn to serve as a medic at Hacksaw Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa.
In untold bravery, Doss single-handedly rescued over 75 of his comrades’ lives while under constant enemy fire. Vince Vaughn co-stars as Sergeant Howell and Sam Worthington plays Captain Glover. Teresa Palmer portrays his wife Dorothy.
For Garfield, he believes Doss is an important character for our times. “Trying to live up to a man who somehow can hold on to his core, about who he is meant to be, and what he is meant to do and what he can’t do, in a culture in an environment that is telling him to be the opposite — that is a rare thing,” the actor said Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, where the film premiered. “I think we can aspire to that kind of righteous living as our true selves. That’s tricky in the culture we’re in right now.
“It’s a pretty wild time we’re in,” he continued. “There’s a lot of violent uprising and separating and warring ideologies that are plaguing our beautiful planet right now. And I think Desmond Doss is a wonderful symbol of embodying the idea of live and let live no matter what your ideology is, no matter what your value system is, just to allow other people to be who they are and allow yourself to be who you are. That was really his core value, and to operate from a place of love.”
Gibson also spoke of the incredible faith that drove the Doss story. “It’s undeniable what the essence of Desmond Doss was. He was a man of great courage and strong conviction and strong faith,” said the filmmaker. “To go in to a battle zone like that. I think the Japanese called it a steel rain, with the artillery and the lead that was flying around, to go into that armed with only your faith, your faith has to be strong indeed. That’s an undeniable part of the story that I just find really inspiring. He just conquers everything.”
For Garfield, he found the idea of playing a real superhero (as compared to his past roles playing of Spider-Man) “much more inspiring.”
“The fact that this man, who’s built like me, kind of as skinny as I am built, dragged men this size,” said Garfield, pointing to Gibson, “across the most rugged terrain under gunfire, sniper fire, the possibility of mortars and shells, and then lowered them down a 75-foot escarpment, not just once, but 75 times. It’s that kind of divine help.”
Added Gibson: “That’s what Desmond attributed his actions to, that power greater than himself. And the difference between a real superhero and comic book superhero is that real superheroes didn’t wear any spandex.”
While Gibson believes acting and directing are essentially the same process — storytelling — he says today he enjoys directing more. “Maybe I’m a megalomaniac, I don’t know,” he said. “But I just love telling the story and I love to see the story the way I see it.”
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