How Mel Gibson faught his way back into HollywoodThe Red Bulletin talks to the Hacksaw Ridge director about filming an Oscar-nominated film on a shoestring, Hollywood redemption and what true heroism really is
THE RED BULLETIN: You hadn’t directed in over ten years before you took on Hacksaw Ridge. What do you do in this situation?
MEL GIBSON: Fasten your seat belt.
Is it really that simple?
Not exactly. We didn’t really have enough money or time to create a film of this size. Some days, I found myself saying, ‘How am I going to do this?’ One always has a healthy concern that you can do it and it will work with the time allotted and the money. You just have to jump in and act as if everything is going to be great. You never know. A lot of things are beyond control. I’m really happy with the end product, and film-goers have been really kind to us. A lot of people have been saying: ‘It’s the kind of film people used to make.’
It’s not only fans but also Hollywood that has been kind to you. You’ve even received an Oscar nomination. Did you expect that?
I’ve always said I’m not sure if the film industry will welcome me with open arms again. I don’t know if I’ve been forgiven yet, we’ll see. Making films that make money certainly helps your chances.
When you watch your films, it seems as if you like the concept of someone sacrificing their life for someone else. Why?
That’s the ultimate act of heroism. When you see something like that – when there’s something good enough to die for like a justified war or sacrificing yourself for someone you love – it’s always an uplifting theme that goes through myth and religion, way back to the Mayans. The stories that they spoke around caves way back before they had film, they had wall paintings, stuff that inspires people. That’s why we tell stories to affect and inspire people and affect each other’s emotions and sensibilities. What impressed me about Desmond is that he would give his life for another. He rescued 75 people in a fierce battle without firing one shot. That’s inspirational.
What do you need to be able to do something like that?
A disregard of self, total humility and complete love. He was so modest. He didn’t want his story to be told. He rejected every offer made to him. They tried to get his life rights in the 40s and he was like, ‘No’. They sent Audie Murphy to talk him into it from the studios. Hal Wallis tried to twist his arm. But he was like, ‘Sorry, I’m just going to pray and grow vegetables.’ He eventually gave his life rights to his church. They said this story might be inspirational for other people, that’s how we made the film.
What did you learn from this story? How to save lives in a war without killing?
I don’t ever want to find out. Fortunately I’ve never had to go. But I admire those who do, and I feel for the people that go and maybe others don’t understand. I have to grapple to understand – I’ve talked to a lot of veterans lately. The official figure is that 22 guys a day in the US kill themselves after the war experience. That’s unacceptable. Our society doesn’t know how to treat these people properly.
You also have a very special relationship to Jesus. You made one of the most successful independent productions of all time with The Passion Of Christ and you’re now planning a sequel. Did you ever want to play him yourself?
I almost had the chance. Martin Scorsese came to see me when I was quite young. He wanted to me to be Jesus in The Last Temptation. But I got really ill during the talks – I got salmonella from a bad oyster and was almost dying. It didn’t happen in the end. Maybe next time.