March 10, 2017

The New York Film Academy Los Angeles recently welcomed Academy Award-winning director, Mel Gibson, to screen his Oscar-winning film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” to a group of student veterans. Associate Chair of Acting Christopher Cass, alongside veteran and MFA acting for film student Ron Ringo, hosted the evening.

Gibson produced, directed, and starred in the epic historical drama film “Braveheart,” for which he won the Golden Globe Award and Academy Award for Best Director, along with the Academy Award for Best Picture. He later directed and produced the financially successful and controversial, biblical drama “The Passion of the Christ.” He received further critical acclaim for his directorial work of the action-adventure film “Apocalypto,” which is set in Mesoamerica during the early 16th century. Gibson’s most recent critically praised and financially successful war film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” earned his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

To begin the Q&A after the screening, the moderators were curious as to how Gibson first came across the project. “It was given to me three times by Bill Mechanic,” replied Gibson. “He used to run Fox. He really has a passion. He loves film. I’ve never met a producer who was a big mucky-muck but was also willing to really get down in the trenches and get his hands dirty.”

Gibson admitted that working on this film was different than any other project before it, as he is typically accustomed to creating original content or transforming a story from another medium to film. Desmond T. Doss’ story left a significant impression. Telling it correctly was a huge responsibility.

“There were tears on the page,” Gibson said. “Among the Medal of Honor Recipients, Desmond was the guy. I mean, who goes into a place without a weapon? Generally, recipients do something incredibly courageous in an instant. Desmond was premeditated. He kept laying his life on the line, again and again. He’d crawl into enemy fire to get anyone. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Gibson frequently uses military veterans in his films. He stated that there were Rangers in “We Were Soldiers” and vets in “Black Hawk Down.” “There’s something about marshaling a film crew and the chain of command and the difficulty — the ferocity of what it all takes to get a large number of people together that is kind of like a battle. You have this logistical way of trying to put things together. You have to have a general and a captain and sergeant. On a regular film, this is your first A. D. and the director. They have to keep everyone’s morale up. Many people on set are veterans.”

Gibson also recalled his first time on set as a director. The night before he was nervous, so he called up Clint Eastwood. Treating the students to an impersonation of Eastwood giving the advice, Gibson said, “Just say action and cut.”

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Gibson for volunteering the time to speak with our veterans.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is now available on VOD and DVD. Gibson will be starring in “The Professor and the Madman,” and “Daddy’s Home 2” later this year.