Andrew Garfield stars as real life war hero, Desmond Doss, in 'Hacksaw Ridge.' (Photo credit: Mark Rogers)
Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of US Army medic Desmond T. Doss. Doss (Andrew Garfield) was a Christian (Seventh-day Adventist) conscientious objector who refused to bear arms, yet was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman for single-handedly saving the lives of over 75 of his comrades while under constant enemy fire at Hacksaw Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. Directed by Mel Gibson, the film costars Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving.
Hacksaw Ridge has received rave reviews since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Garfield thinks part of the film’s power comes from the connection among the cast.
“The reason the film works on such an emotional level is the bond that all of the young actors in the barracks created. You could feel the devotion to each other led by Vince. You could feel it through Vince’s spirit. It was just contagious with all of the young actors in the barracks. One of the most moving scenes to me which makes me cry uncontrollably every time I see it is after the first assault when you have five or six soldiers, including Mel’s son Milo, in this foxhole being boys having no idea of what they were about to face. It’s a real testament too all the young actors to create these bonds of love to make you care about the story.”
Though Garfield is the main focus of the film, he thinks Teresa Palmer, who plays his wife, is the film’s emotional center.
“Teresa has this access to embodying unconditional love. It’s a rare thing in a human being. And it’s especially rare to capture on film. In every part of shooting a scene with her, I felt I could do no wrong as a man, as a husband, as a terrible kisser. The scene I think she so profoundly nails is when she comes to visit Desmond in prison. She fills that small room with love that’s threatening to break down those stone walls. That was my experience of being in that scene with her.”
Audiences are used to seeing a certain kind of male hero in war movies. Garfield was happy to turn that archetype upside down with his portrayal of a real life war hero who eschewed the violence of war.
“Desmond has a kind of masculinity that you don’t often 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. This is an example you don’t get to see often. A lot of women respond strongly to the film because of that I think. He’s bringing a loving, nurturing aspect to a horrific set of circumstances. The impact of Desmond’s life is undeniable. I think people can leave the theater thinking they can be a better version of themselves, whatever that is. It’s a really inspiring story.”
From the minute he read the script, Garfield felt the film had the power to make a cultural statement. Anyone involved with the making of a film hopes the film will change people. Garfield truly thinks Hacksaw Ridge will do just that.
“It’s very rare that you read a script and go, ‘I have to do this.’ It’s a horrible feeling [laughs] to have the yearning to tell the story be greater than the doubt. It’s a testament to Desmond and who he was and that life needs to be honored. His spirituality transcended him in his actions especially in the moment when he’s faced with the Japanese soldier in the Japanese tunnels. He doesn’t hesitate to start healing a man in need. He doesn’t see skin color. He doesn’t see a uniform. He doesn’t see an enemy. He sees another brother. This is a transcendent act. This is a rare thing for us to witness in this culture. I wanted to know everything about him. I wanted to read everything. There was a strange spirituality surrounding the making of this film. His story will make ripples in the lives of people who see this film. I do believe that.”
Hacksaw Ridge opens on November 4th.