October 28, 2016
In the film Hacksaw Ridge, Oscar winning Costume Designer Lizzy Gardiner was tasked with creating the world of 1945 and the leading character of Corporal Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Doss was a contentious collaborator who saved 75 men without carrying a gun during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the deadliest campaigns of WWII. Despite his defiance, he was awarded our nation’s highest military honors.
In order to recreate the historical event with exactitude, Gardiner did a vast amount of research. She has designed several war films, so she knew how to put herself into the period, trying to understand the climate of the world during combat. “There was actually quite a lot of information available,” she explains. “There’s also interviews with Doss. There was quite a lot about him personally, as well as his wife and family.” This abundance of information assisted Gardiner in fleshing out a person who, for much of the film, wears a uniform. In order to create Doss’ particular personality, Gardiner worked closely with the actor. “Generally, after they’ve [the actors] been to boot camp in rehearsal, they’ve become accustomed to wearing the uniform and they develop things within the uniform that they like, which make it more individual. I let them go for it.”
Gardiner mirrored the arc of the character in the breakdown of his costume. There were about ten stages, which began with a pristine uniform and ended with complete devastation, to reflect his emotional and physical distress. Because of the movie’s lean budget, Gardiner had to strategize with the many multiples of soldier costumes, giving the leads more backups with subtler changes and the background about three iterations each. She had the costumes built then aged accordingly.
Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), Doss’ real life love interest, was a nurse. Gardiner was respectful of the period but also mindful that audiences would have been put off by the dowdiness of what was appropriate. Using imagination and a little leeway, she reimagined Schutte with just enough movie magic to underscore her appeal. Gardiner loved the rapport and trust she shared with Palmer and the way the actress enveloped herself in the character.
Despite the magnitude of the film helmed by director Mel Gibson, whom Gardiner says was “fantastic, a wild ride,” she reveled in the process. “Generally on war films, you get left alone by directors and producers because it is factual. It’s not anyone’s personal taste and sometimes it’s an enormous relief. That’s why I do war films from time to time because they are a break from Gucci, Prada, and everyone having an opinion. You really get to invest yourself completely in the time and period.”
Hacksaw Ridge is in theatres November 4th.