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.”