ON THE WILD SIDE

LEONARDO DI­CAPRIO GETS REAL IN THE REVENANT

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Ale­jan­dro G. Inar­ritu knew Leonardo Di­Caprio would go to the ends of the earth to make the 19th cen­tury sur­vival epic The

Revenant ex­actly as the fa­mously metic­u­lous di­rec­tor wanted.

For Inar­ritu, Di­Caprio was the best per­son to play Hugh Glass, a real life fur trap­per who sur­vived a bear maul­ing and then went to find his mates who left him for dead in the un­for­giv­ing wilder­ness.

Over the course of the nearly year-long pro­duc­tion, the Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tor and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist proved his com­mit­ment over and over. He ate raw bi­son. He stripped naked in subzero tem­per­a­tures. He jumped into an icy river.

But Inar­ritu had one very spe­cific worry: Could Di­Caprio grow a beard? “You can­not shoot this film with a fake beard. It would look ter­ri­ble,” Inar­ritu says. “Not ev­ery man grows so much hair in his face. That was a bet.”

Thank­fully for the di­rec­tor, Di­Caprio sprouted a gnarly, un­ruly beard that be­comes a sym­bol of where ex­actly his char­ac­ter is on his jour­ney, and how deeply he’s de­volved.

Makeup added dirt on a daily ba­sis, and a com­bi­na­tion of glyc­er­ine and grit gave his hair that un­washed, bloody look – the look of some­one who’d sur­vived a bear at­tack.

“It’s a re­ally pri­mal story of man and the nat­u­ral world,” Di­Caprio says. Of the bear at­tack scene, he adds: “I think it will go down in his­tory as one of the most voyeuris­tic ac­tion se­quences ever cre­ated.

“You feel the blood and the sweat. 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.”

In an era of com­puter gen­er­ated im­agery and other post-pro­duc­tion fixes, this was an un­con­ven­tional shoot from the out­set, with the crew trav­el­ling to Cal­gary, Alberta and then to Ar­gentina when the Cana­dian snow melted ear­lier than ex­pected.

Shoot­ing oc­curred only in nat­u­ral light, al­low­ing a mere 90 min­utes a day to achieve com­plex, highly chore­ographed long takes.

But Di­Caprio knew what he was sign­ing up for.

“When you’re out in the el­e­ments like this – and there are peo­ple who have much harder jobs than peo­ple mak­ing a movie – you ap­pre­ci­ate the en­durance of man and how we’re able to adapt to cir­cum­stances.

“You’re sign­ing on to find el­e­ments that will ul­ti­mately trans­form the nar­ra­tive … it was all ba­si­cally us putting our­selves in this en­vi­ron­ment and see­ing what hap­pens.”

Partly for the sake of his char­ac­ter, Di­Caprio largely iso­lated him­self from the rest of the cast.

He stud­ied the life of Hugh Glass and the lives of fur trap­pers at the time. He learned and prac­tised the chore­og­ra­phy for the shots. But when it came time for the cam­eras to roll, ev­ery­thing be­came very an­i­mal­is­tic – a largely silent per­for­mance rooted in in­stinct and re­ac­tion.

“For me it was about re­ally think­ing these thoughts and re­ally try­ing to feel this man’s pain,” Di­Caprio says.

The Revenant opens to­day

Leonardo Di­Caprio as Hugh Glass in a scene from The Revenant.

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