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About The Production (Continued)

Mel Gibson, who has some experience playing conflicted, reluctant heroes in films from "Mad Max" to "Braveheart," portrays Martin.

"You don't have to go very far to realize that history quickly repeats itself. Century by century, decade by decade, it's different players but the same story playing itself out, with all its ugliness and glories, all its victories and defeats," says Gibson. "This kind of story has been told since people have been dwelling in caves and painting pictures; it's that combination of the ordinary and the divine that inspires us and makes something really hit home for us, I think. Those are the kind of stories that I like."

Gibson notes that it was also the script's story of a man's inner turmoil and a family in crisis that appealed to him.

"The thing I like about it is that while it is a very big film, at the core of it is a real story with characters that are quite understandable— just ordinary people. It's got that small aspect to the story— not outer space but inner space," he says. "I've seen the epics, and some of them don't touch you because they are these big, sprawling things. They don't reach you on an emotional or human level at all. The far more important story is the one of the people, the family, something that everyone can relate to. If that can work, you can have as many cannon blasts as you like, because they mean something."

Gibson describes Benjamin Martin as an erstwhile hell-raiser who, despite his apparent civility, can't quite dodge his brutal past. The character's uneasy balance between the man he was and the one he aspires to be intrigued the actor.

"He was a kind of savage during the French and Indian War, and when we meet him, he is trying to maintain a simple lifestyle and stay out of trouble," says Gibson. "He's tempered by his past, by having children and by remorse for the sins he thinks he has committed during the war. There's a sense of foreboding through the entire film that has to do with his transgressions and his remorse for them. His conscience bothers him. He's motivated by the fear that he could easily regress into his former brutality, and that his sins and transgressions will come back to haunt him— that he will have to pay a moral debt that will mean losing what he has. His family, his farm, the new life he has built— he just wants to hang on to all of it so hard that it starts slipping through his fingers. Eventually, he finds that he has to either get into the conflict or do nothing and watch as his family is torn apart. He says at one point that 'the war will be fought in our backyards,' and, literally, that happens to him," Gibson explains.

"He is terribly afraid because of his own past and the karmic retribution that might result. He has a lot to lose now— he has seven children— and that makes him very vulnerable."

Mark Gordon says that Gibson's ability to capture this duality in Martin's nature, coupled with the actor's intrinsic "timelessness," made him the appropriate man for the part.

"There are very few people who I think audiences will buy in this role. When we were developing the screenplay, it was always Mel that we had in mind. We felt that he was able to play the physicality and the roughness of the character, but at the same time he has enormous humanity and great heart."

"It was a joy to work with Mel," Roland Emmerich says. "Mel was very committed to concentrating on the acting, and he is the most humble person there is. I think he felt comfortable with us, and the best thing we could do was give him the room to act, to create and define this character."

The result was that Gibson went above and beyond the call, surprising the crew every day. During the filming of one scene, "we were shooting in 40 frames per s

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