Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic, Medal of Honor recipient, and conscientious objector. Doss saved over 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa without ever holding or firing a weapon.
Andrew Garfield plays Doss in the film, which was directed by Mel Gibson. Screen Rant spoke with Garfield and Gibson at the press day for Hacksaw Ridge about the challenges they faced making this visceral war movie.
I don’t know if I can say this on Screen Rant, but holy s**t that was a good movie.
Andrew Garfield: Oh cool, man.
Mel Gibson: I’m glad you liked it.
I was blown away. My father was a Marine, and he’s somewhat of a WWII historian, and I can’t wait to see this with him.
Mel Gibson: Where did your dad serve?
Mel Gibson: Oh yeah? Cool.
First of all, I wanna say, Mel, how did this project first come across your desk?
Mel Gibson: It was brought to me by the producers. They’d struggled with it for fifteen years to get it made. And they gave it to me and it was like, “Whoa.” It got me. So inspiring. Such a hero. What a great story to tell. I decided to just throw in and go for it. And then when I found out Andrew was doing it that was really cool. And, you know, what’s not to do?
Exactly. And Andrew, for you, how much training did you have to go through, like a boot camp-style or anything like that, to prepare for playing Desmond?
Andrew Garfield: You know, for me it was all about getting my body as strong, and as seemingly not strong, as possible. I needed to look as thin as Desmond was, but create this kind of inner, core strength. So that took some work. And there was a boot camp that all the boys did, and I have to say that was a big—you know, all the Aussie guys—these young Australian actors—did I think really helped the film reach people in an emotional way. Cause you really care about these boys that are losing their lives, just [snaps fingers] like that, after you’ve spent the first half of the movie just hanging out with them. It’s devastating, and I think it’s pretty true to the horrors of war in that way.
So you kind of felt that even when you’re portraying this character, like seeing this stuff. What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot?
Mel Gibson: Most difficult? I don’t know. But, like, there was a series. I think some of the war stuff was tough to get through, given the time constraints and budgetary constraints and stuff, so. But I was very fortunate to have this massive, wonderful crew around me who—we had to synchronize watches, as it were, to get all the stuff to happen together so it got on camera. And everyone from the actors, to the extras, to the stunt guys, to the camera guys, to the special effects dudes, and everything had to come together. And these were big things, and so we were able to achieve a lot with a little because of the talent and expertise of the fellows that I was working with.
Absolutely. And then Andrew, same question for you except as an actor, obviously.
Andrew Garfield: The most challenging—
The most difficult scene for you. Cause there’s a lot that your character—
Andrew Garfield: It’s all hard. It’s all tough, man. I find it all really, really hard. And to keep a balanced trajectory going, and bringing up all the nuance of Desmond, and all of his different facets. And making sure every part of him is being honored and threaded through. And, you know, I relied on Mel a lot to help guide me through that. And then Mel and the editor, John Gilbert, you know—once the material’s there, you haven’t got a movie unless you have eyes like Mel, and eyes like John Gilbert’s, who are gonna be able to sew together a whole person, and make the audience feel like they know the person in some way by the end. So it’s really a testament to what they did.
Mel Gibson: And you. He even came into the editing room a couple of times and gave us a couple of hints on stuff we may have missed.
I’ve been raving about this film to everybody that I know, and I’ve been using the term “like a doss.”
Andrew Garfield: [laughs]
Mel Gibson: Like a doss?
Andrew Garfield: Like a doss, instead of like a boss.
Mel Gibson: [laughs]
Thank you so much for your time.