By AT News Team, Dec. 14, 2014: The well-known actor Mel Gibson is being recruited to direct a movie about Desmond T. Doss, the Adventist battlefield medic in World War II who was the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Variety, the leading news publication of the cinema industry reported this last week and in the same article said that Andrew Garfield was in talks with producers about playing the role of Doss.
Garfield was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 2010 for acting in The Social Network, a movie about the invention of the Web site Facebook. In 2012 he was nominated for a Tony award for Death of a Salesman a play on Broadway in which he appeared and a People’s Choice Award for The Amazing Spider-Man movie about a famous comic book hero.
Gibson has played in many movies over the years and more recently moved into directing cinema projects. The most widely known movies that Gibson has director include Braveheart based on the life of an historic Scottish hero, a controversial version of The Passion of the Christ and the film Apocalyptic. He is known for his interest in movies with openly Christian themes.
The news report stated that Walden Media is not longer interested in the Doss movie, but David Permut and Bill Mechanic are the producers along with Cross Creek Pictures’ Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson. Financing is being supplied by Cross Creek Pictures, according to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the local newspaper in the suburb of Los Angeles where the cinema industry has traditionally been headquartered.
Doss was an Adventist young adult in the 1940s who was drafted and allowed to serve as an unarmed medic in the Pacific war because of his conscientious objector status. He was reviled by some in his squad because of his openness about his prayer life and efforts to keep the Sabbath, but went on to save the lives of dozens of men during the battle for the island of Okinawa.
Variety reported that the working title for the movie is Hacksaw Ridge, a reference to the steep escarpment down which Doss lowered many severely wounded soldiers. Later in life, Doss told audiences at Adventist camp meetings and youth congresses that he was able to do this because of knots that he learned to tie in the denomination’s youth program that was eventually named the Pathfinder Club.
The new movie has the potential to provide the widest exposure for the Adventist faith at least since the 1988 movie starring Meryl Streep as pastor’s wife Lindy Chamberlain, produced originally as Evil Angels in Australia and then released as A Cry in the Dark. It was about an Australian family whose baby was killed by a dingo. Streep won awards at the Cannes cinema festival and from the New York Film Critics Circle for her role and was nominated for an Academy Award.
The only other major Hollywood movie about an Adventist was The Road to Wellville in 1994 in which Anthony Hopkins starred as Dr. John H. Kellogg, founder of the denomination’s health care institutions. The movie was presented as a comedy and proved to be a big flop in the eyes of the critics and the cinema industry.
“The movie about Desmond Doss has the potential to be more explicitly reveal key elements at the heart of Adventist faith,” an academic who studies cinema told Adventist Today. “It should deal with Sabbath-keeping and it certainly must deal with beliefs about war and peace, and the way in which hope is embodied by an Adventist believer in a context of evil and chaos.”