Leonardo DiCaprio and the crew of The Revenant throw themselves into sub-zero filming and bring a visceral fight for survival to the silver screen
How far would Leonardo DiCaprio go for a role? Pretty far, it appears. For his portrayal of American explorer Hugh Glass in The Revenant, the 41-year-old actor willingly stripped naked in sub-zero temperatures, leaped into an icy river and, supposedly consumed a raw
Not that DiCaprio had much choice to begin with. Glass’ odyssey, as retold countless times since it happened in 1823, is an extreme adventurer’s worst nightmare. Mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his peers without weapons and supplies, the severely injured Glass survived on a diet of wild berries before being helped purportedly by Native Americans.
“It’s a really primal story of man and the natural world,” says DiCaprio. “It’s almost biblical.”
The Hollywood actor threw himself into the role by studying Glass and the lifestyle of ancient fur trappers. But fleshing out raw emotions triggered by the brutal circumstances faced by the subject, proved to be the most challenging.
“You’re signing on to find elements that will ultimately transform the narrative and find the poetry. That’s what the whole thing was about. It was all basically us really putting ourselves in this environment and seeing what happens,” the actor explains.
It certainly helped that conditions during the nine-month filming were equally as tense as the storyline. Director Alejandro Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel) and the crew found their capabilities, resources and patience stretched to the limits from start to finish.
The film was shot in remote locations in Canada and Argentina – and Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki opted to shoot in natural light.
While this technique worked seamlessly in their prior project, Birdman, they soon realised how unsuited it was in an outdoor setting with a harsh climate. But the duo wilfully stuck with their preferred method, and as a result had to constantly scramble for time just to capture the best shots.
But that too eventually worked to the film’s advantage as limited lighting added a layer of despair to the already gloomy atmosphere. And all these came to a head during a cruel bear attack scene – considered one of the movie’s ‘highlights’ due to its immense brutality that will leave the viewer reeling in their seat.
“You feel the blood and the sweat,” explains DiCaprio. “You almost smell the bear. It accomplishes what movies do at their best which is to really make you feel like the rest of the world has evaporated and you’re singularly in that moment.”
Iñárritu adds, “I wanted for people to feel the cold, smell the fear. It was difficult but that’s what we were supposed to do. Nobody should care. Nobody should be bothered with having a good time or not. Judging by the results, I would not change a bit.”
ALSO STARRING: Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Lukas Haas, Paul Anderson and Will Poulter
RUNNING TIME: 156 minutes
While they eagerly hold their breath for Deadpool, and Batman v Superman, geeks can get even more giddy with the news of what else is to come.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently revealed some of the exciting projects in the pipeline. The untitled Spider-Man film, tentatively slated for July 2017, will give the franchise a fresh direction.
“It’s going to be as big and spectacular a Spider-Man film as has ever been made. But it’s
a Peter Parker story and has more opportunity to focus on the story of a 15-year-old kid going to high school.”
Not a Spidey fan? Black Panther is expected in 2018, starring Chadwick Boseman and a predominantly African-American cast. Black Panther made his comic book entry in 1966 in Fantastic Four and is regarded as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez