Leonardo DiCaprio's new film, The Revenant, tells the true story of Hugh Glass as he battles for survival in the American wilderness. During an exploratory mission in the 1820s, Glass is left for dead after a bear attack, and has to survive in the wild and find his way back to seek revenge on the man who betrayed him.
While much of the story centers on the dynamic between Hugh Glass and the man who abandoned him, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), there is another major element to their story: nature itself.
Throughout the film, the wilderness becomes a force that is both an enemy to Glass, and his salvation. We see it as a stunning backdrop that makes the film visually arresting. However, as Glass struggles to survive we also see its capriciousness, its moods, and how it can nurture him in one moment and push him to the brink of death in another. Rather than just beautiful scenery, the wilderness becomes a character in and of itself.
In order to truly grasp the brutality of his character's situation, DiCaprio went to extremes while filming (and not for the first time - his method acting is legendary). In an interview with Yahoo!, he talks about some of the scenes where he was tested to his absolute limits.
I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.
He even went so far as to eat raw meat during scenes (as Glass had to do the same) to ensure that his revulsion was as real as possible.
I certainly don’t eat raw bison liver on a regular basis. When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it, because Alejandro kept it in. It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.
It's work like this that leaves fans at a loss as to why the actor still has yet to win an Oscar, but there is more to his methods than just pure acting genius. His passion for nature and the environment shines through as he is talks about the film.
It’s epic poetry, an existential journey through nature, and this man finding a will to live against all odds. Yet he changes, nature changes him and I think those elements changed him while we were doing the movie.
It should come as no surprise to fans that he has such an affinity with nature. Over the years, he has proven time and time again that the Earth's environment is front and center as a priority for him, and he continues to do incredible work to help the planet.
In the nineties DiCaprio used his celebrity and his new-found fortune to create 'The DiCaprio Foundation', an organization devoted to preserving the Earth's "wild places," with a focus on biodiversity.
While filming Blood Diamond in 2006, DiCaprio and his foundation became involved with the 'SOS Children's Villages,' an organization devoted to helping children orphaned in Africa and providing them with care, education, healthcare, and counseling. During filming, he worked with 24 children in Mozambique, and afterwards, he raised funds for the project with a charity auction.
DiCaprio wrote, produced and narrated the documentary The 11th Hour that explores the state of the environment and various solutions that could implement to help solve the problem. Leo is now involved in producing documentaries highlighting environmental issues like Virunga on which he was executive producer.
Leo practices what he preachers in his personal life, taking steps to decrease his carbon footprint in his day-to-day life. He owns an electric car, a Fisker Karma, with no carbon emissions at all. A far cry from most celebrity garages!
Leo's work on films like The Revenant continues to highlight his passion for environmental issues. After watching an inspiring story like this, it's impossible not to feel motivated to work towards saving a world as beautiful, tempestuous and fragile as this one.