NEW YORK — On the red carpet of the premiere of "Hacksaw Ridge" at the Sheen Center on Wednesday, Academy Award-winning actor and director Mel Gibson talked about Christian World World II hero Desmond Doss, and the amazing example he set by sticking to his convictions and turning the other cheek.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is based on the extraordinary true story of Doss, played by Andrew Garfield ("The Amazing Spider Man"), who served in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle in the Pacific and miraculously saved 75 men without firing a shot.
Doss served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army but refused to kill or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. Consequently, he thought it was fitting to become a medic during the war.
"You can't help but be inspired when you hear about the story, and then when I read the screenplay, I mean, I was a moved. It's a story worth telling. If you're going to spend 18 months or two years on a project you might as well make sure it's a story worth telling and this definitely was," Gibson said in an interview with The Christian Post.
The film details the heroics of Doss, an Army medic whose only weapon on the battlefield during the war was prayer. He prayed, "Just one more Lord," as he single-handedly saved the lives of many of the soldiers he served with.
"Desmond was operating on another realm. In a theater or another situation where men go to war and conflict and most are reduced to the level of animals. He managed to maintain his higher self and his purpose and he was able to explore his virtue. He molded himself in that experience. It's a strange juxtaposition," Gibson continued. "He would say himself, it wasn't him doing it, something greater than him was doing it. He said he was praying the whole time."
In "Hacksaw Ridge" there is a scene in which Doss is put to the test by members of his platoon who assaulted him and tempted him to retaliate. Instead, the committed man of God decided to follow Jesus' example and "turn the other cheek," something Gibson maintains is very hard to do.
"It's pretty tough, even when we were shooting that scene, Andrew and I were like, 'Man, if somebody did that to me, I'd punch him in the face.' But it was absolutely vital that he not do that and that he be better than that or above that," Gibson said.
"He didn't care what people thought of him — and they thought he was some kind of coward or something but he wasn't, clearly. He was one of the bravest people ever, that's who he was. He was very strong in his convictions and I think to be able to go that far and not give a damn about what others think — that's a big deal."
Gibson said turning the other cheek is something he has trouble doing, but he esteemed Doss highly for his great example and self control.
When asked what impact telling Doss' story could make on this generation, Gibson said, "Well, he went before us, and there have been people since that have done things by his example that are just as amazing.
"I think anybody can look at a story like this and it tells us, as a species, who we are. And when tested under certain circumstances we have an ordinary man doing extraordinary things in incredibly difficult circumstances. And if he can do it, couldn't more people do it?" he asked.
Doss' outstanding bravery and determination resulted in him saving the lives of 75 soldiers and his name has become a symbol throughout the 307th and 77th Infantry Divisions for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty. His courage and faith won the admiration of his commanders and fellow soldiers.
The Virginia native called himself a "conscientious cooperator" as he volunteered his services.
In October 1945, the inspiring soldier was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. Before being honorably discharged from the Army in 1946, Doss had developed tuberculosis.
He died on March 23, 2006, at the age of 87. He was buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is Gibson's first directorial film since the success of "Apocalypto" and "The Passion of The Christ." With Andrew Garfield as the lead, the movie also stars Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. The script was written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan.
"Hacksaw Ridge" can be seen in theaters nationwide. for more information click here.
Watch the full interview below.