Crew fall outs. Producer exits. Naked actor trailed along the ground. -25C temperatures and a global search for snow. All this amounts to what has been described by the crew as a Living Hell, but ultimately was the life on set of Leonardo DiCaprio's new film The Revenant.
A week ago the trailer for Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant exploded online. The highly anticipated film has everything you could ask for, and is even being touted as the film that will garner DiCaprio that ever elusive academy award. The film will tell the story of 19th Century explorer Hugh Glass, as he sets out to wreak revenge on his companions whom robbed and left him for dead following a near fatal mauling by a bear.
This rebirth of the great American Western thriller is a welcome sight to the theaters in the midst of the great Superhero era. The dark, gritty and murderous Western looks set to be one of the best films in recent memory, but if you were part of the crew, it's likely that you won't be queing up upon it's release... You see, speaking to Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter, one anonymous crew member bluntly called it the worst experience of their life, describing it as a "Living Hell".
So what went so badly wrong... ?
The Revenant went into production in September and was supposed to wrap in March, however cameras are now expected to still be rolling come August. The consequences of this have been largely at the expense of the production cost with the total now sitting at $95 million, and insiders expecting that to bloat to a colossal $135million. The weather also played its part in creating a truly abysmal experience for cast and crew alike. Weather can be a tricky subject, and although with all our technology and forecasts, sometimes it just throws a curve ball at you. That's exactly what happened to the Revenant, as unexpectedly the temperature in Canada dropped to a brutal -25C, with -40C thanks to the windchill factor. The action at that part of the film was set in the autumn, thus actors were asked to go without hats or gloves.
Many of the crew also echoed a resounding apathy towards the handling of the shoot. It was well documented that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki wanted to only shoot in "natural light", meaning there could only be 4 hours a day of the correct light to shoot in. Crewmembers lamented this decision to THR, saying "It's 4 o'clock, and you've got an hour and a half of daylight, and it's not the light he wants to shoot in. If you want to seamlessly stitch [the footage] together, it's not going to match."
It's easy to see how infuriating this would be for members of the crew. To optimize there time in the light, the production scheduled a great deal of rehearsal time with full crew and cast, however crew members stated that Iñárritu would regularly change his mind; "We'd never shoot what we blocked, Everything was indecisive, whether it was this particular actor for this particular role, this costume, this makeup."
Safety for actors and the crew was also scrutinized. An actor immersed in freezing water had a broken dry suit, with crew members stating that some necks of the dry suits were cut off so they wouldn't show on film. One of the most bizarre stories coming from set, was the directors decision to have a naked character dragged along the ground. Reports suggested that safety wasn't adhered too for the actor, but this is something that Iñárritu largely refutes claiming to be concerned about the actor's genitals and went to lengths to lay down plastic sheeting to protect him.
I asked him several times, 'Are you fine?' " says Inarritu. Each time he asked, he says the actor replied that he was prepared to try another take. "I was super considerate because he was a nice, 22-year-old guy,"
Whatever the facts are, there's no denying that the shoot has been largely a horrible experience for many of the crew. Large crew defections saw many members quitting or firing, with reports that behind-the-scenes drama led Iñárritu to bar producer Jim Skotchdopole from set. Iñárritu acknowledged the troubles with crew members, claiming there were problems but nothing that made him ashamed.
As a director, if I identify a violin that is out of tune, I have to take that from the orchestra.
Regardless, I have to admit I'm excited for the arrival of this mammoth of a movie. The shoot led Tom Hardy to drop out of the highly anticipated Suicide Squad in favor of this, and although Iñárritu and Lubezki hold an unorthodox style of shooting films, there's no denying that their final product is one of quality and entertainment. This has Oscar nominations written all over it, and maybe, just maybe a well deserved win for Leonardo DiCaprio as a leading male role.
Although its true that the shoot could have been handled better, and vast amounts of money saved if at least some parts of the movie had been conceived with computer-generated effects, its clear to see that Iñárritu and Lubezki have went to great lengths to create a truly stunning film.
"When you see the film, you will see the scale of it," promises Iñárritu. "And you will say, 'Wow.' "
Here's hoping that on December 25th, it was all worth it.