Leonardo DiCaprio Profile – The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of Hollywood’s most unique figures. After Titanic turned him into a massive movie star and sex symbol, he turned away from the glamour roles and instead sought out the most difficult roles he could find. He also became Martin Scorsese’s fetish actor that included performances in Gangs of New York and 2014’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

But now he’s taken on his stiffest test yet in Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s THE REVENANT, a stark tale of one man’s brutal journey of survival and vengeance.  DiCaprio endured icy river waters and subzero cold during the course of the nine-month shoot, most of which took place in northern Alberta, Canada.  Based on the life of 19th century explorer Hugh Glass, the film charts the harrowing ordeal that he faced after being badly mauled by a bear and left for dead by the other members of his hunting team.  The challenges posed by the elements and the terrain left their mark on DiCaprio, including a scene where he chomped into an actual bison liver in keeping with his and director Iñarritu’s determination to give audiences the most authentic experience possible.

“The main nemesis was the weather and the freezing temperatures,”  DiCaprio says.  “It was always a struggle to stay warm enough and not suffer hypothermia and also to eat enough so that we could keep going in those conditions. It wasn’t pleasant but we decided that we had to go into the freezing waters because that was the kind of realism we were striving to portray…I wouldn’t eat the bison liver again, though!”

Most industry pundits have established the 41-year-old DiCaprio as the favourite to finally take home the Oscar for his work in the movie, a fitting accolade for an actor who keeps turning in one remarkable performance after another.  The Revenant also co-stars Britain’s Tom Hardy and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson.

Here is what DiCaprio has to say about his time on the film and some of his other passions in life.  He currently divides his time between New York and Los Angeles and for the past six months has been enjoying a relationship with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kelly Rohnrbach.

ON HIS AMBITIONS FOR THE FILM

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“We wanted to make a great piece of art, so if the film gets great reviews, if it gets great business, if it gets awards, that’s fantastic because I want to see more movies like this out there coming from Hollywood. This is truly a poetic existential epic and you don’t get to see stuff like this happen very often. So, I could only wish it all the success in the world.”

“The theme of man vs nature, revenge, the perseverance of life, what a man draws on to survive, our ability to adapt,  what we hold onto, what drives us – these are all themes we wanted to explore while we were there.  We spent nine months living in that environment and all those themes we spoke about before started the movie became apparent to us while we were making the movie.”

“We went on an epic voyage together because so much of what we were going to put up on screen was going to be dictated by us immersing ourselves in the natural world and recreating this environment.”

ON WHAT THE FILM MEANT TO HIM

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“This was a pivotal point in American history because here you have this untouched pristine landscape.  This was the first influx of people there.  It was all about capitalism trying to extract the resources that were there and how many different cultures were sacrificed to this kind of greed.”

“This whole era of American history is undocumented, so in a lot of ways it was like doing a science fiction movie and reconnecting with a part of America that wasn’t yet America, but very much like a lawless territory where you had French and English fur trappers and indigenous native people, fighting over these resources. We had to piece together what this world would be like and how these characters would interact, but at its core the movie is obviously about the relations between man and nature.”

“Being out in nature for that long, is an existential journey. The story, by and large, is very linear: a man gets screwed over and loses his son and then he goes to attack the dude that screwed his life up. But to me and Alejandro it was these great bookmarks for what would happen when he and I started to figure out the poetry of who this character is and what he goes through. Nothing is fake in this story.”

ON THE LIMITED AMOUNT OF DIALOGUE

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“That really was one of the most exciting parts about the project. When I read the script I kept urging Alejandro to take out more lines. I wanted less dialogue because that was the exploration of this character. Actually, Hugh Glass is a man that does not mince words, he gets straight to the point and I don’t think he necessarily wants to communicate with that many people. (Laugh). But staying silent for so long, even for such a man like Hugh Glass, is a real challenge. And that was a challenge as I had to make the story come alive, just through his eyes.”

ON BRAVING THE EXTREME COLD

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“I decided not to cover any of my fingers because I wanted to manipulate my environment. And, of course, I ended up crawling through miles and miles of snow-covered landscape…It’s those decisions early in a film that come back to haunt you.”

“But we knew what we were signing up for when you say you’re going to do this in subzero temperatures and in places untouched by man.”

“I was never injured while working on the film although I did get pretty sick with the flu a few times.”

“Talking about extreme situations in my life though, I’ve been scuba diving and sky diving but after seeing this movie you could certainly never compare any kind of extreme to this struggle in the wilderness. At the end of any shooting day I would go to my hotel room and think I would never be able to endure what these men did. I have been in a lot of situations which were sort of near death experiences but nothing like this, no.”

“Every single day of this movie was difficult. It was the most difficult film I’ve ever done. You’ll see, when you see the film—the endurance that we all had to have is very much up on the screen.”

ON THE BEAR ATTACK SCENE

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“The rumours (about DiCaprio being ‘raped’ by a bear as per The Drudge Report) are absurd.  I don’t know how these things get started.”

“I don’t want to give away all the details about how we shot the scene but I was never in any danger….We rehearsed the scene for several months and studied tapes of over 100 actual bear attacks to know how we should do it.”

“People are talking about it because it’s something incredibly groundbreaking … audiences are responding to it because it’s unlike anything they’ve seen in cinema ever really…Alejandro (Gonzales Iñarritu) allows the audience to experience a very raw violent savage bear attack yet feel the intimacy of both man and beast, you feel the sweat and the heat coming off of the animal.”

ON THE EXPERIENCE OF MAKING THE FILM

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“It was all a big, beautiful blur to me. This was such a unique process for all of us as actors. The shooting style was unlike anything I’ve ever done before and unlike anything the other actors had ever done before. It was very much like performing theater every day: We had to rehearse meticulously and it was this mad, intense scramble to capture this magic light, this precious hour and a half of beautiful illustrious ‘Chivo’ (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s nickname – ED) light — and so it became very much like a humorous ‘Saturday Night Live’ situation.”

“We wanted to shoot in natural light because Alejandro strives for such authenticity.  I’m still staggered by his kind of commitment to the work and how it adds so much to the experience you have as an ator. You get to do what you do best when you get to immerse yourself in the part. That’s a great gift if you’re an actor. You felt an intensity and a unity with the entire crew and it became this perpetuating thing that translated into this movie.”

ON EATING THE BUFFALO LIVER

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“Yes, it was a real buffalo liver.  It was disgusting and you see my real reaction to that experience on the screen!  (Smiles)

ON HAVING TO SAY “NO” TO HIS DIRECTOR

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“We were supposed to do a scene with my son as he’s praying for me. And the temperature hit 40 below zero. At that point we couldn’t really open our eyes. And our fingers locked together and the camera gear locked together, and I just looked at Alejandro and said, ‘I’m all for enduring realism, but there comes a point when nothing is operable.”

(The production subsequently shut down on November 29th and shooting did not resume until January 19th.)

ON TAKING RISKS AND QUITTING SKYDIVING

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“I like the excitement that comes with pushing myself past what I think are my own limits.  It’s interesting to scare yourself but once you’ve faced your fears you feel exhilarated.”

“I also used to do skydiving for that reason. But then were was…an incident. It was a tandem dive. We pulled the first chute. That was knotted up. The gentleman I was with cut it free. We did another free fall for like another 5, 10 seconds. I didn’t even think about the extra chute, so I thought we were just plummeting to our death. He pulled the second, and that was knotted up too. He just kept shaking it and shaking it in midair, as all my friends were, you know, what felt like half a mile above me, and I’m plummeting toward earth. (Laughs.) And he finally unravels it in midair. The fun part was when he said, ‘You’re probably going to break your legs on the way down, because we’re going too fast now.’ So after you see your whole life flash in front of your eyes—twice—he says, ‘Oh, your legs are going to get broken too.’  (When we finally landed) we did, like, this barrel roll. We got bruised up, but no broken legs….I do not skydive any longer.”

ON LEARNING TO STAND UP FOR HIMSELF AS A BOY

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“In school I was about a foot shorter than anyone else, always jumping up and getting laughs – a little smart-ass with a big mouth. School was like this wild safari where I could make a name for myself, but it never really worked. They just basically looked at you as the class clown and dismissed you. I never belonged.”

“But I was very lucky to have great parents who helped me understand the world and give me a better sense of the world.  My mother would spend hours driving me to a special art-oriented school so I could get a better education.  If she hadn’t done that for me, I would never have become an actor.”

ON HIS COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT

“I’ve produced films which speak about the defence of the environment (most notably, The 11th Hour – ED) and I try all the time to make younger people very aware about how fragile our ecosystem is and how we can all make a difference.

“I have a solar-powered house. I drive a hybrid car which consumes very little gas.  I separate my garbage, I don’t run the water unnecessarily, I shut off the lights when I leave a room.  All those little things which if we all did can have a huge impact. I think the younger generation is much more sensitized to environmental issues than I was when I was growing up.”

ON SURPASSING HIS OWN DREAMS

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“I sometimes have to look back and say “Wow, this is amazing what has happened to me.” I have been able to fulfill a lot of these dreams that I had when I was very young. It’s pretty amazing. I have to say it’s a pretty amazing feeling. But at the same time it becomes addictive! So yes, my dreams have been surpassed. (And) I would like to think that I stood for something and made a positive contribution to the world.”

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Leonardo DiCaprio

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