Mel Gibson Makes Hollywood Comeback With Six Oscar Nods For 'Hacksaw Ridge'

It is said in Hollywood that you are only as good as your last film. This proved true Tuesday morning for Mel Gibson when he received his first Oscar nomination in 21 years. His film Hacksaw Ridge racked up six nominations that include Gibson for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor for star Andrew Garfield, film editing, sound mixing and sound editing.

The WWII drama has been a hit worldwide for Lionsgate with a $65 million U.S. box office plus another $92 million overseas, totaling nearly $158 million. As far as Oscar nods go, it's tied with Lion and Manchester by the Sea and behind La La Land with 14 and Arrival and Moonlight with eight each.

As Gibson’s first directing effort in 10 years, Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss, who refused to kill anyone, saved 75 people and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without ever firing a single shot. 

Controversy has clouded the 61-year-old actor and director since taking home an Oscar for Best Director for Braveheart in 1996. He soon after became entangled in multiple scandals including a 2006 DUI arrest in Malibu, wherein he unleashed anti-Semitic slurs at a police officer. This incident severely damaged his reputation and career and many in Hollywood turned against him. Then, in 2010, he was accused of domestic violence by an ex-girlfriend. He later pled no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge. Gibson has made his apologies and has referred to that time in his life as a “rough patch.”

He spoke about his controversial past in October in an interview with USA Today saying, “I’ve worked on myself a lot. I’m a different person than I was back then. But the thing that remains the same is I think I could always tell a story.”

Gibson was nominated alongside directors Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival). Gibson is the only one in the group who has been previously nominated.

He has seemingly turned his life around, regaining his Hollywood footing. And, in his personal life, the star welcomed his ninth child, a son named Lars Gerard Gibson, with his girlfriend over the weekend. Many have questioned if the Hollywood community would welcome him back with open arms after his recent nomination by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Director, while the film was nominated in the best motion picture drama category at the Golden Globes. The answer seems to be a resounding yes, though it remains to be seen if he will take home another golden statue. 

Mel Gibson participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film "Hacksaw Ridge" at AOL Studios on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP).

Oscars: Mel Gibson Back In The Club With ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Nominations

From the moment it world premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge seemed to signal a sea-change in perception of the director. Couple that with Gibson’s recent signing with CAA — the first time he has agency representation since 2010 — and today’s Oscar noms, Hollywood has clearly brought Gibson back into the fold. This comes on the back of a spectacular film that was made outside the system. Cross Creek, Demarest Films and IM Global financed with the latter acquiring international rights for about half the film’s $40M budget.

Gibson had spent the past decade lying low, following a self-inflicted tabloid trail that began with anti-Semitic comments uttered during a drunken tirade in the back of a cop car that got him ostracized by the industry. During the subsequent period, he did not beg for absolution, but he did make a great film. Today’s Best Director Oscar nomination — despite a lack of recognition from the DGA last week — certainly appears to have pulled up a chair again for him at the Hollywood table.

Hacksaw, which scored six nominations total today, kicked off in Venice and bypassed the other fall festivals. It was greeted by a 10-minute standing ovation on the Lido and huzzahs from critics. It was a savvy move to lead with international which is less concerned with Hollywood flip-flopping. The term “comeback” was ubiquitous. Box office has also been hearty, worldwide.

The film is the story of real-life conscientious objector Desmond T Doss (Andrew Garfield in the film and an Oscar nominee today) who saved 75 men in Okinawa without ever firing or carrying a gun. The faith-based title and horrors-of-war action drama is about a man who “does something extraordinary and supernatural, really, that inspired me,” Gibson told the Venice press corps. “A lot of attention needs to be paid to our warriors; they need some love and understanding. I hope this film imparts that message. If it does nothing but that, that’s great,” said Gibson.

Following today’s Oscar nominations, Gibson paid tribute to his team and the soldiers. “What could be more exciting than listening to the nominations being announced while holding my new born son in my arms! This is a truly wonderful honor. I’m especially happy for Andrew Garfield, our producers Bill Mechanic and David Permut, our editor John Gilbert and our incredible sound teams. The Academy’s recognition of our film is a testament to every single person who worked on Hacksaw Ridge, and to every soldier who made the sacrifices they made to fight for their country, including Desmond Doss.”

This is the first film Gibson has directed since Apocalypto. It’s also 14 years since The Passion Of The Christ became the biggest-grossing indie picture of all time and the biggest R-rated film until Deadpool finally surpassed it last year. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been 21 years since his Braveheart won the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars.

Leaving awards aside, box office success was not guaranteed on this film and yet it has been a winner, notably in China where it recently received an extended run. Lionsgate released it domestically in the heart of awards season on November 4 and the gross there to date is $61.8M. Internationally, Hacksaw crossed $100M global in December and is now at $100.9M. Well-timed, the UK and Germany open this weekend, and there are still several other big markets, who gambled on awards recognition, to follow.

IM Global’s Stuart Ford tells Deadline, “Everyone at IM Global is delighted for Mel, producers Bill Mechanic and David Permut, our partners at Cross Creek and AI and the rest of the Hacksaw team. This movie was a leap of faith for all of us and it’s been a long, hard but ultimately rewarding road. The film’s continued global box office success has also been a terrific and very timely boost for our partners in the international distribution community.”

Hacksaw Ridge: the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss, the war hero who refused to kill

Has Mel Gibson finally made his comeback?

Just under a decade ago, the actor-director managed to alienate both fans and his movie-world colleagues with a string of public disgraces,  including several incidents fuelled by his longterm battle with alcoholism, and a deeply offensive anti-Semitic rant, delivered after his arrest for driving under the influence in 2006.

His 2012 directorial effort Get the Gringo impressed critics but went straight to Video On Demand in the US, while his most recent high-profile appearance on the big screen was as a villainous arms dealer in The Expendables 3 (a Guardian review deemed it “probably the only kind of role he can pull off in this still utterly toxic phase of his career”).
For some, the star of the original Mad Max trilogy and former “sexiest man alive” will always be a pariah – but if the reaction to his latest film is anything to go by, it looks as if Gibson is again a Hollywood force to be reckoned with.

War drama Hacksaw Ridge has been nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and has achieved widespread acclaim from critics (its rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes is 86%).

The film has the advantage, however, of being based on a remarkable true story: it stars Andrew Garfield as the Second World War medic Desmond T Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor (the US’s most prestigious military award),

To modern audiences, most of whom will have little experience of frontline conflict, Doss’s feats belong to the realm of the unimaginable. During battles in the Pacific island of Guam and, most famously, in Okinawa, the then-26-year-old risked his life again and again, exposing himself to gunfire to carry his injured companions to safety – and doing it all while refusing to carry any form of weapon.

Doss’s story also has an unlikely quality to it that makes it all the more appealing. The future war hero was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of a carpenter. He was devoutly Christian, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and was unusually, unfashionably (even for America, even for the 1940s) tenacious in his beliefs. Unable to reconcile his adherence to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” with a role as a soldier, but nonetheless patriotic, he was classed as a conscientious objector and joined the army as a medic.

Unlike many other medics, he also refused to carry any form of knife or gun, determined that, no matter what situation he found himself in, he would not take the life of another human being. Instead, Doss’s heroism took another form: he is remembered today for the number of lives he saved.

His first major feat occurred in 1944 in Guam, where, across a period of several months, he repeatedly braved enemy gunfire and  torrential rain and mud to rescue his companions (an excellent detailed account of these exploits, which earned Doss two Bronze Star Medals, can be found on the aptly-named website Badass of the Week).

Chillingly, his status as a medic (identifiable by the Medical corps emblem worn on the helmet) put him in even more danger.

"The Japanese were out to get the medics,” he later recalled (via link above.) “To them, the most hated men in our army were the medics and the BAR men…they would let anybody get by just to pick us off. They were taught to kill the medics for the reason it broke down the morale of the men, because if the medic was gone they had no one to take care of them. All the medics were armed, except me."

The following year, in Okinawa, Doss proved again that he was a man of exceptional bravery, performing the actions that would lead to his being awarded the Medal of Honor.

The official citation for the award describes how, on April 29 1945 during an assault on a high summit of the Japanese island, heavy enemy gunfire inflicted serious injuries on “approximately 75” Americans.

“Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands,” it reads.

Original estimates places the number of lives saved at 100: Doss (both modest and rigorously honest) later insisted that “it couldn’t have been more than 50”, and the 75 figure was agreed as a compromise.

While the events described above would be extraordinary enough on their own, Doss was also recognised for battlefield actions that took place throughout the May of 1945. After repeatedly risking his life, he was wounded in the legs by a grenade on May 21 – but even while injured, still managed to prioritise the lives of his fellow-soldiers.

The citation describes how: “Rather than call another aid man from cover, [Doss] cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover.”

After being rescued, Doss spotted a more severely wounded man on the journey back to safety and insisted on giving up his place on the stretcher, maintaining that he could afford to delay his own treatment a while longer.

He was attacked by a sniper while waiting and the bullet shattered his arm bone – after which he rigged up a rudimentary splint and “crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station”.

The story of Doss, who died in 2006 at the age of 87, has previously been made into a documentary, but Hacksaw Ridge is the first major film based on his wartime exploits.

In some ways, his legend – that of a man who combined staunch religious faith with patriotism and outstanding bravery – feels like the perfect movie subject for Gibson himself, who is Catholic and often described as an ultra-conservative.

 But Doss's story is also a very human one, with a much wider importance and appeal....and Doss's close relatives, it transpires, were more than happy for Gibson to tell it.

"Of course I am very proud of my dad, who seemed to get it right the first time," the war hero's son, Desmond Doss Jr., told the Daily Mail Online last September.

2But I am just as proud of folks like Mel and others that have perhaps faltered along the way, but made the choices necessary to reorder their lives and come back stronger."

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