Exclusive: 'Hacksaw Ridge' Producer On Knowing Desmond Doss, Working With Mel Gibson

Posted: Mar 02, 2017 9:30 AM

Academy Award winning-film Hacksaw Ridgenow available on DVD, tells the courageous story of Army medic Desmond Doss. Doss was a Christian whose faith prevented him from taking life. So, when he was on the battlefield, he was the guy without a gun.

“While everyone else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it,” Doss (played by Andrew Garfield) explains to his superiors in the movie.

Doss saved 75 soldiers in World War II. He carried his fellow men to safety and tended to their wounds, all the while braving the enemy. By all respects, he has earned the title of hero. Yet, he would never dream of calling himself one. Terry Benedict, a Hacksaw Ridge producer who built a relationship with Doss before helping his story reach the big screen, told Townhall why.

“Desmond would never consider himself a hero,” Benedict said. “He simply would say that not only was he doing his job, but he was just trying to save the men that he loved. He couldn’t bare the fact that there wasn’t going to be a single man left up on that ridge. He wanted everyone to get back home safely to their families.”

Benedict became acquainted with Doss's story as an adolescent when he read "The Unlikeliest Hero." When he had the chance to actually meet Doss a couple years later at a church summer camp, Benedict said the inspiring protagonist had the same qualities he found in the book.

“All of the things i had read about him in the book - about him being a humble man, being a God-fearing man (meaning that in a loving way) - I saw in Desmond Doss when I met him. He was very humble, very caring, compassionate, loved youth and wanted to help them have a strong moral compass and encourage them to have a faith walk with God. That never changed, including later on when I developed my relationship with him.”

Benedict produced a documentary on Doss called The Conscientious Objector in 2004. Several years later the opportunity came along to work on the film, and Doss had a few requests. The accolades were the last thing on his mind. In fact, Doss didn't give Benedict his blessing on the film until the producer promised to "put God first, Desmond second, and everyone else third."

“There was never a discussion about awards," Benedict said. "What we cared about was the message getting out to the world that people could be encouraged - that if they had a journey of faith in their life, no matter how bad circumstances may get or the type of events they may have to deal with in their life - that their faith could always carry them through. That was the most important thing to Desmond.”

When it came to finding a director, Benedict noted that Mel Gibson was the perfect man for the job.

“I was really excited for Mel to come on board because he’s a believer and he’s a very passionate filmmaker, and he’s an extraordinary artist,” Benedict explained. “Combining all of those elements for somebody to helm the ship just made perfect sense. Mel threaded the needle of making a very graphic war film and balancing that in a proper context with Desmond’s heroics and what he went through, and all the harassment and abuse that he took."

Together, they produced an incredible film that has amassed several award nominations, and, as of Sunday, two Oscars.

In addition to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - and more importantly - the military has fully embraced the film.

“The military community has been incredibly supportive of Hacksaw Ridge," Benedict said. "They get the fact that this film is about courage, integrity, inspiration and also about the fact that just because we don't all have the same beliefs, it is possible to collaborate and work together for the greater good."

Benedict hopes that with Doss's story on the big screen, we can better appreciate - and not forget - our soldiers' sacrifices. 

The producer could not say enough about Doss' display of selflessness.

“Desmond is a role model, a living example for those that profess a Christian faith and practicing it and living it out in a world that is real to us everyday. And that means that to serve your fellow man in whatever way possible, with an unconditional love, putting everybody else first and yourself second. That’s a lesson for us no matter what time in history we are.”

Hacksaw Ridge is now available on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital HD), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD), DVD and On Demand from Summit Entertainment, a LIONSGATE Company.