DiCaprio goes to extremes for 'The Revenant'

LOS ANGELES -- 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.

See Full Article

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 yearlong production, the Oscar-nominated actor and environmentalist proved his commitment over and over. He ate raw bison. He stripped naked in sub-zero temperatures. He even jumped into an icy river. But, early on, 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 said in a recent interview. "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 glycerin and grit gave his hair that unwashed, bloody look - the look of someone who'd survived a bear attack.

It's a minor thing, and perhaps the easiest test DiCaprio had to endure to make the sprawling epic, but it's one of those details that illustrate the overall production's commitment to authenticity.

"It's a really primal story of man and the natural world," said DiCaprio in a recent phone interview. "It's almost biblical."

In an era of computer generated imagery and other post-production fixes, this was an unconventional shoot from the outset. Inarritu traveled with his crew to Calgary, Alberta and then to Argentina when the Canadian snow melted earlier than expected. As if shooting on location isn't hard enough, he and cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki also opted to shoot only in natural light, giving the production a mere 90 minutes a day to achieve complex, highly choreographed long takes. The duo had done this before in "Birdman," but never in the unpredictable wilderness.

But DiCaprio knew very well 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 - but you just appreciate the endurance of man and how we're able to adapt to circumstances," DiCaprio said. "You're signing on to find elements that will ultimately transform the narrative and find the poetry. ... It was all basically us really putting ourselves in this environment and seeing what happens."

Partly by nature of the story and partly for the sake of his character, DiCaprio largely isolated himself from the rest of the cast, including his friend Tom Hardy.

He studied the life of Hugh Glass and the lives of fur trappers at the time. He learned and practiced the choreography for the shots, too. 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 said.

"Leo thinks like a filmmaker more than an actor," Inarritu said. "He understands the whole. He was able to be not only a machine doing exactly what we agreed in a natural way but at the same time be absolutely present to react to any improvisation. That's when I felt that this is one of the greatest actors."

Little remains of DiCaprio's full mountain man transformation externally. Production wrapped. He shed the beard. The bumps and bruises healed. But the grit of the shoot, the trials and tribulations, the tension of getting that perfect shot, it's all left on the screen - particularly in the bear attack.

"I think it will go down in history as one of the most voyeuristic action sequences ever created," DiCaprio said. "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."

Inarritu wants to keep the specifics of how exactly he achieved such a harrowing sequence to himself. Revealing the process would destroy the magic of it all, he said.

"I wanted for people (to) feel the cold, smell the fear," he said. "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. That's not the purpose of doing a film."

"Judging by the results I would not change a bit."


Latest Entertainment News

  • Weinstein Co.'s bankruptcy could bring new wave of accusers

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Is #MeToo part two on the way? With its bankruptcy, the Weinstein Co. has tossed out the non-disclosure agreements that officials say its co-founder and former CEO Harvey Weinstein wielded as a weapon in his sexual predation, bringing with it the possibility of a whole new wave of victims coming forward. Source
  • The Crown producers apologize after Claire Foy, Matt Smith pay disparity uproar

    Entertainment CBC News
    Producers of the Netflix drama The Crown apologized Tuesday to actors Claire Foy and Matt Smith over the revelation that Foy was paid less than her male co-star. A producer disclosed last week that Foy — who starred in the first two seasons as Queen Elizabeth II — was paid less than Smith — who played Prince Philip — because Smith was better known. Source
  • 'This is the year of the female' filmmaker says as Hot Docs achieves gender parity

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- The topic of female empowerment that's been dominating headlines with the .MeToo movement is also being heavily reflected at this year's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. In announcing the lineup for the 25th edition of the Toronto festival on Tuesday, organizers said they've achieved gender parity for the first time, with 50 per cent of the films coming from female directors and many projects with themes relating to women rising up. Source
  • 'It's not all loss. It's not all disintegration:' Frederica von Stade sings of Alzheimer's in new opera

    Entertainment CBC News
    Frederica von Stade is taking on another challenging late-career role, singing in the world premiere of an opera about two women afflicted by Alzheimer's disease. Opera Philadelphia announced Tuesday it will present Sky on Swings, composed by Lembit Beecher with a libretto by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, to open its 2018-19 season on Sept. Source
  • Subway delays make Cynthia Nixon late to first political event

    Entertainment CTV News
    New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon says one of the reasons she's running in the Democratic primary against Gov. Andrew Cuomo is because of the poor condition of New York City's subway system. She experienced that firsthand on Tuesday as she was on her way to her first official campaign event in Brooklyn after announcing her candidacy the day before. Source
  • Cynthia Nixon takes aim at Cuomo in first campaign event

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Newly announced New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Tuesday criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo, her Democratic primary opponent, for favouring corporations and the rich over average New Yorkers. The liberal activist and "Sex and the City" actress took aim at Cuomo in her first official campaign appearance, telling the audience at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn that she had just made it to the event "in the nick of time" because of subway delays that she blamed on…
  • 'Black Panther' is most tweeted about movie ever: Twitter

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK - The pop culture sensation "Black Panther" has set another record: most tweeted about movie ever. Twitter said Tuesday that Ryan Coogler's box-office smash has been tweeted about more than 35 million times. Source
  • 'The Crown' producers say sorry to stars after pay row

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON - Producers of the Netflix drama "The Crown" have apologized to actors Claire Foy and Matt Smith over the revelation that Foy was paid less than her male co-star. A producer disclosed last week that Foy, who starred as Queen Elizabeth II, was paid less than Smith, who played Prince Philip. Source
  • Virtue, Moir tell Ellen DeGeneres they're 'definitely' not a couple

    Entertainment CBC News
    Not even Ellen DeGeneres could get Canadian ice dance sensations Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to say they are more than friends. Virtue and Moir appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Tuesday, and the popular host asked them point-blank what a lot of skating fans have been wondering — "Are you a couple?" Source
  • 'As outstanding and outspoken as ever:' Hot Docs unveils 25th anniversary lineup

    Entertainment CBC News
    Hot Docs will showcase "formidable filmmakers" — with 50 per cent of the program comprising work by female filmmakers — as the international documentary festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this spring. Organizers unveiled on Tuesday the complete list of films slated for its upcoming edition, which takes place April 26 to May 6 in Toronto. Source