Mel Gibson battles back with war drama Hacksaw Ridge
“I NEVER DO things my way,” says Mel Gibson (right) with a smile. “No, when I do things my way, I get into serious trouble.” It’s true. When a drunk Gibson called a female traffic cop “Sugar Tits” in 2006, the scandal threatened to sink his career. But after a decade of semi-retirement, not only is he finally making inroads back into Hollywood, strong test screenings and a release date in awards season suggest he may achieve the ultimate redemption by bagging next year’s Best Picture Oscar. Starring Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson’s fifth film as director, tells the story of Desmond Doss, a war hero who was decorated for bravery — despite never firing a shot.
“It’s a true story,” says Gibson, “about a man who was a conscientious objector. He wouldn’t take another life, but he wanted to serve his country as a medic. He was persecuted. In boot camp, in the army, they tried to throw him out. They called him a coward, and he just took all the shots.”
The crux of Gibson’s film concerns Doss’ decision to serve in one of World War II’S most violent battles: Okinawa. “In ten weeks, over 300,000 were dead,” says Gibson. “I mean, it was a bloodbath — and this guy went in there. He never touched a weapon, yet he was so brave he would crawl into enemy fire and save people by himself.” Amazingly, Doss lived to tell his tale. “He got shot, and stepped on a grenade to save his friends. But he lived to be 87 — he died in 2006. What a hero!”
As the trailer shows, surviving was no easy task. “It’s a war film,” Gibson says, “but it’s a wonderful anti-war statement as well.” Surprisingly, this homage to an all-american hero was filmed entirely in Australia, with an Australian crew and Hugo Weaving in the role Gibson originally earmarked for himself — Gibson sees it as “an Australian film about America”. So does this return mean he might even take the reins of Iron Man 4, as his friend Robert Downey Jr has hinted? “Directing’s a tough game nowadays,” sighs Gibson. “You’ve got 30 days. Boom!” That’s probably a no, then.
Andrew Garfield’s Desmond Doss risks life and limb to save fellow soldiers; Right: Conscientious objector Doss is viewed with suspicion by the other grunts. Below: And his superiors.