Hacksaw Ridge is a riveting drama about the true story of private Desmond Doss whose courage and bravery saved almost 100 men in World War II without ever carrying a weapon into battle. Doss who never lived to see this depiction of his courageous actions on film was a real living example of what heroism can truly be. His family even asked him repeatedly “What were you even thinking? Running back into active fire again and again while asking “Please God help me save one more.” His son has said in many interviews that the family never truly got an answer to that. It was a simple thing: Doss was just a man who stuck to his convictions and in turn became a relatively unknown hero in our history. Now the whole world is learning Doss’s story in this movie directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss.
STRIPLV: Why does this story resonate with you?
GARFIELD: When I read the script, I was in pieces; I was just. There was an innocence to him. There was a purity to him; a model of masculinity that you don’t get to see in mainstream entertainment right now. He was an incredibly strong man, but his strength didn’t come from his ability to kill his fellow man; his strength came from his ability to stay true to himself and heal, and love, his fellow man. This isn’t an example you often get to see as a man. I think I thought that’s why women actually responded so positively about the film because of that - because he’s bringing a nurturing, loving energy to a horrific set of circumstances: the battlefield.
GIBSON: It resonated very deeply with me, in my heart. He really existed. We’re not making any of this up. It is astounding to me that someone could conduct himself in this way, in these hellish circumstances. You’ve got someone with faith and conviction, and his innocence and simplicity going into hell itself where the object is to kill one and other. Men are reduced to the level of animals and here’s this man sort of honing his aspects and going into the same hell, and saving lives in the midst of all this death. It’s like a little flower in the wilderness. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and it’s not really a war film. It’s kind of like a love story. Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his brothers. And Desmond did that again and again at noisome almost. He did that so much that you couldn’t even portray it on film, because you’d start to think, “Is this real?”
STRIPLV: To what degree was the responsibility of portraying a historical figure, such as Desmond Doss?
GIBSON: Well, oh yeah, I think Andrew, Bill Mechanic, and myself, everybody, we
all felt this tremendous responsibility to pay tribute and honor this guy’s memory.
GARFIELD: I think it even continues now as we talk about it. I feel, getting to know everyone we’re talking to and whoever we’re talking to now, whoever’s watching this, there’s an opportunity to witness a story about a man who walked among us, who offers us our own potential. There’s something inspiring about what he did, and it wasn’t through some grandiose striving. It was only him being true to who he was in the simplest of ways. I think that is what a true hero is.
STRIPLV: How was it preparing to shoot the epic battle scenes?
GIBSON: Well this was tricky. I’d never actually
the guns and explosions kind of thing before so I was kind of like, “Ugh, how do I do it? What do I want to see?” The battles were kind of there in the script but specifically not. What shape did they have? Who’s who and who’s doing what, and how does it happen? That was something that you had to visualize and I used war footage, I read materials, I watched the Desmond stuff, talked to veterans, and indeed read history books, to give me the idea of what it must have been like out there and I tried to emulate that. It had its logistical difficulties and there’s a lot to come together to get in that arch; in that super 35 lens and lucky for me I had an excellent cast and crew - extras and everybody, even the lunch guys.
STRIPLV: How was it bringing Desmond’s faith to life?
GIBSON: Just the simple truth of who that man was. I mean, he was all about love and God is love, and also was willing to lay down his life for his fellows. There’s no greater aspect of spirituality. I mean, love, that’s intense. That’s beyond the human realm, that’s beyond instinct even. It’s holy, higher, another realm. So, how can you deny that? You can’t be cynical about it. My god, the guy was a hero and could any of you do it? You try that. It’s a tall order.
STRIPLV: What makes Desmond Doss a singular hero?
GARFIELD: Yeah, I think because he was given a set of options and he didn’t like them but he knew he needed to serve and so he kind of created his own title: consciences cooperator. I think he’s singular in that way, and he’s singular in the way that he didn’t set out to be a hero. He just wanted to serve and be one of the many serving, and sown into the fabric of that. And I think what sets him apart is this, almost compulsion to sacrifice himself for others. It didn’t feel like a conscious choice at all. It felt like an instinctive pull; like a calling. And I think that’s why so many people come away from learning about his story and seeing the film overwhelmed and blown away because of course you can’t help but imagine, “What would I do in that situation?” And I think my first instinct is to run the hell away. The fact that he stayed up top there on that ridge, paused, and prayed, and asked God, asked himself, “What do you want of me?” That act alone is something to behold and to give honor.
STRIPLV: What should audiences look forward to?
GARFIELD: I think it’s got everything, I really do. I think its got something for everybody. Mel tells a story for everyone. He’s not exclusive in how he tells
a story. It’s incredibly visceral and emotional. He deals with themes that are universal and it’s undeniable - the emotional impact of Desmond’s life and what he did, and how started and where he ended. I ultimately think that people will leave the theater feeling they could be more fully themselves in their lives and the better version of themselves, whatever that means. It’s a really inspiring story as far as I’m concerned.
GIBSON: Desmond is awe inspiring. I mean, wow. I’m in awe of someone who could do what he did and certainly inspired. And his actions have inspired others to follow in his footsteps and do almost the same kind of stuff. There were no guys doing that; no weapons in battle and just
knew of him and went in, and did the same kinds of things.
That’s just mind-blowing, our shared experience, the best of us. He is like one of the best of us. That we can actually look at that example and maybe pinch a modicum of that to be applied to ourselves, is a great thing; awe inspiring.