Could Leonardo DiCaprio finally nab an Oscar? The Golden Globe nominated movie, The Revenant, tells the true story of a legendary man who struggled against the odds to survive against nature’s most trying terrain.
Leonardo DiCaprio has portrayed an array of characters – from Howard Hughes to Jay Gatsby to Wolf of Wall Street’s profligate Jordan Belfort – but the role of the Hugh Glass was an entirely new challenge, taking the actor into borderlands that few in our modern world have experienced. It is DiCaprio’s most intensely raw, and physical role to date, and one that has earned him, and the movie, a Golden Globe nod. Could an Oscar follow?
Inspired by true events, The Revenant is an epic story of survival and transformation on the American frontier. Hugh Glass’s mythology began in 1823, when he was among thousands joining the fur trade, a driving new force in the US economy. It was a time when many men poured into the unknown, plying unmapped rivers, disappearing into impossibly lush forests, seeking not only excitement and adventure but also profits — often in fierce competition with the Native tribes for whom these lands had long been home.
With death almost a given for many entering this dangerous frontier, Glass flat-out refused to die. His legend sparked after he faced one of the West’s most feared dangers: a startled grizzly bear. Academy Award®-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s re-telling of this true tale, a mauled Glass clings to life – then suffers a human betrayal by the hands of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) that fuels him to continue at any cost. In spite of tremendous loss, Glass pulls himself from an early grave – clawing his way through a gauntlet of unknown perils and unfamiliar cultures on a journey that becomes not just a search for reckoning but for redemption. As Glass moves through the frontier in turmoil, he comes to reject the urge for destruction that once drove him. He has become a “revenant,” one who has been “returned from the dead.”
“Glass’s story asks the questions: Who are we when we are completely stripped of everything? What are we made of and what are we capable of?” says Iñárritu.
Adds DiCaprio, “The Revenant is an incredible journey through the harshest elements of an uncharted America. It’s about the power of a man’s spirit. Hugh Glass’s story is the stuff of campfire legends, but Alejandro uses that folklore to explore what it really means to have all the chips stacked against you, what the human spirit can endure and what happens to you when you do endure.”
Although DiCaprio has proven his acting chops over the years, this role was specifically challenging for the star who often could not rely on dialogue.
“I’ve previously played a lot of characters who were incredibly articulate in different ways and had a lot to say, so this was a unique challenge for me. It was about conveying things without words or in a different language. A lot of it was about adapting in the moment, about reacting to what nature was giving us and to what Glass was going through as we filmed. It was about exploring the most internal elements of the survival instinct.”
“I’ve never really seen this time period in American history put on film, so that interested me,” he continues. “This was a unique time and place in the history of the American West because it was far more wild than what we think of as ‘the wild, wild West.’ It was like the Amazon, a completely unknown wilderness, a no man’s land where few laws applied. These trappers who came from Europe and the East Coast had to learn to live a life in the middle of the elements, surviving like any other animal in the wilderness.”
So will this be Leo’s year to win some awards? Iñárritu seems to think so. The director says that DiCaprio faced tests no actor could fully prepare for in his performance. “Leo was working in the toughest of conditions, under a challenging wardrobe, in extreme make-up, going to the most emotionally uncomfortable and dark places. But no matter what he is going through, something immediate comes to life when Leo is in front of the camera. There’s an incredible power,” the director says. “The way we were shooting demanded an enormous amount from him in terms of rhythm, timing, momentum and silence, yet Leo makes it all work because he is so present.”
The Revenant opens wide in theatres January 8 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter.