“I think everyone in this movie is trying to survive,” DiCaprio said in an interview with “Nightline.” “Even the bear is trying to survive.”
DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the real-life frontiersman who was attacked by a bear and left for dead, only to then set off on a 200-mile journey through the wilderness to find the men who abandoned him.
“It was a very linear story from the onset,” DiCaprio said. “It was a revenge story but it became sort of spiritual and poetic in the process.”
Iñárritu exposed his actors to weeks of filming in frigid, snowy conditions in both the Canadian high country north of Calgary and in Patagonia near the South Pole.
“We did have warm trailers and we had warm homes to go to, but it was a difficult shoot in the context of making a movie,” DiCaprio said. “But when you watch this film and you watch what these men actually endured historically…it’s not only fascinating, it’s harrowing.”
Iñárritu believed shooting in those conditions was necessary to make the movie as authentic as possible.
“Obviously the story we were telling was about these men 200 years ago living in these landscapes…so what other choice should I have made?” he said. “It’s funny that people say, ‘And you shot it in the real mountains with real rivers?’ Yes. ‘And you shot it with natural light?’ Yes.”
It was DiCaprio who reached out to actor Tom Hardy to play Fitzgerald, Glass’ nemesis. At the time, Hardy was about to star in a contemporary action film.
Hardy said DiCaprio said to him, “Before you take off jumping out of helicopters and shooting guns or whatever you’re doing, you need to read this script that Alejandro and I are doing. It’s awesome.”
“Then I got the job and I can’t wait to do it,” Hardy continued. “And Leo bailed and went off to Jamaica on a yacht and decided he needed to think about it.”
DiCaprio, who signed on for “The Revenant” before shooting “The Wolf of Wall Street,” gives a performance that has put him back in the Best Actor Oscar conversation. The Oscar nominations will be announced Thursday morning.
“I think Leo basically was doing beautiful work with his body and his eyes in this choreographed dance,” Iñárritu said. “And that physicality is what I think the cinema now on the big screen is about.”
“From a performance aspect, you know, look, I always need at least a decade to really gauge what the hell I did,” DiCaprio added. “It takes me at least 10 years to not know exactly what’s happening in a shot next, and where I was on that location, what I was thinking, my emotional connection to a certain scene, or how I was feeling that day.”
If he’s nominated for the Oscar, academy voters will have just a few weeks to make their determination. For now, viewers nationwide can immerse themselves in the film’s visually spectacular world, as DiCaprio and Hardy did.
“We gave our trust over to Alejandro in this film and we went into this sort of heart of darkness so to speak,” DiCaprio said. “And we gave ourselves over and ultimately that’s makes great films, is that trust in one another.”