“We live in some pretty rugged times right now,” filmmaker Mel Gibson told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo in front of a full audience at Christ Cathedral’s Freed Theater on Thursday, Oct. 20. “Anyone who is sane hates war, but we are all incumbent to our warriors,” he added. Gibson’s appearance, recorded for Arroyo’s ongoing “Storyented” series, held monthly in the Freed Theater at Christ Cathedral, followed an advance screening of his first directorial effort in 10 years, the World War II film “Hacksaw Ridge,” which opens worldwide on November 4.
The event was hosted by the Diocese of Orange, supported by Catholics at Work OC and emceed by its founder and president, Mark McElrath. “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of United States Army medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), whose commitment to his faith as a Seventh-day Adventist compels him not to bear arms, even amid the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. Instead, Doss embodies a heroism that rallies the troops around him—while saving, single-handedly, at least 75 of his fellow comrades. “That doesn’t happen by your own power,” Gibson noted. For such bravery, Doss became the first conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I admire heroes and what they tell us about who we could be,” Gibson related, whose depiction of Doss is the latest heroic character Gibson has brought to life on the big screen. The two-time Oscar winner’s best known directorial works, “The Passion of the Christ” and “Braveheart,” are both spiritually evoked in Doss’s own story. “You can’t get much more Christ-like [than Desmond Doss],” Gibson said, quoting John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“It’s an amazing film,” Joe Avalos, a member of St. Joseph in Placentia, commented. “[Doss] stood up for what he believed in and followed through with it.” Joe’s wife, Joanne, took inspiration from Doss’s conviction. “Today, faced with so many issues to stand up against,” noting topics such as abortion and euthanasia, “Desmond’s extraordinary story showed how his faith drove him to be who he was,” she said.
Garfield is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including Vince Vaughan as Sergeant Howell, Hugo Weaving as Doss’s father, and Teresa Palmer as Doss’s anchored wife, Dorothy. Doss, who died in 2006, was reluctant to ever speak of his own display of courage, and the story took 14 years to reach production. Once Gibson became involved in director, things moved fast. It was shot in only 59 days in Australia. When premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, the film received a 10-minute standing ovation. Lionsgate is handling U.S. distribution rights.
While the film is rated R for depictions of war, Gibson and his collaborators avoided gratuitous violence and language, keeping in line with Doss’s own beliefs. But Gibson did not sanitize the desperation and horrors of what was endured. It was necessary, he believed, “in order to understand the sacrifice,” he told Arroyo. The full conversation between Arroyo and Gibson will air on EWTN November 3.