Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield march forward with ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ – USA TODAY

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Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield discuss the vermin aspect of their new film ‘Hacksaw Ridge.’

LOS ANGELES — Andrew Garfield has an entirely unexpected reason why he thinks Mel Gibson is a great director.

The guy is one heck of an on-set chiropractor, Garfield explains, sitting next to his Hacksaw Ridge director in a suite at the Four Seasons. Gibson’s healing hands were a shockingly pleasant surprise to Garfield as he recuperated between scenes during the arduous shoot.

“(Gibson) was like, ’Sit down.’ So I sat. And he was like, ‘Just totally go limp.’ I was like ‘Wait, what do you mean — wwwahhhhh?’ ” says Garfield, showing how Gibson manipulated his neck. “But he restarted the blood flow in my brain. … He was amazing. It was a very vulnerable position.”

“It’s total trust,” says Gibson.

The two needed complete trust for Hacksaw Ridge (opens Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles; in theaters nationwide Friday) based on the true story of Desmond Doss, the World World II Army medic who refused to carry a gun but still singlehandedly saved 75 men in the bloody Battle of Okinawa.

The film stakes are high. For Gibson, 60, Hacksaw Ridge represents his Hollywood return, the first time the Oscar-winning director has stepped behind the camera since 2006’s Apocalypto — after a public fall that began with his infamous drunken-driving arrest in Malibu, during which he hurled anti-Semitic slurs.

Gibson realizes his actions created a public rift from which he may only now be recovering. He insists that being characterized as discriminatory is unfair.

“None of my actions bear that sort of reputation, before or since. So it’s a pity, after 30 or 40 years of doing something, you get judged on one night. And then you spend the next 10 years suffering the scourges of perception,” Gibson says. “But it’s my fault for having (allowed) that perception, I fed the bullet to the gun.”

As far as Gibson is concerned, it’s time to turn the page.

“People are tired of petty grudges about nothing. About somebody having a nervous breakdown (after) double tequilas in the back of a police car,” says Gibson, now sober. “Regrettable. I’ve made my apologies, I’ve done my bit. Moved along. Ten years later. Big deal.

“I’ve worked on myself a lot,” Gibson adds. “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.”

Garfield, 33, says storytelling is the reason he sought out Gibson. The actor, too, has much riding on Hacksaw, along with his starring role in Martin Scorsese’s Silence (out Dec. 23 in New York and Los Angeles) — continuing his dramatic turn after two high-profile, big-screen superhero outings as Spider-Man.

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Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer and Vince Vaughn star in the World War II drama ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ directed by Mel Gibson.
Lionsgate

“After the Spider-Man experience, I wrote a list of directors I would hold out for like a stubborn child. One was Martin Scorsese and one happened to be Mel,” Garfield says. “It’s insane this happened the way it did.”

Both Gibson and Garfield are in the awards mix for best director and actor, and the “crowd-pleasing movie” could be a candidate for best picture, says Steve Pond, awards columnist for the TheWrap.com. The filmmakers received their first review when Hacksaw made its world premiere at September’s Venice Film Festival — a 10-minute standing ovation that clearly signaled a welcome return.

“It wasn’t 10 minutes, it was 9 minutes and 45 seconds,” Gibson jokes before getting serious. “Jesus, I couldn’t have been more gratified to have that response. It shows I am on the right track.”

Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield march forward with ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ – USA TODAY

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