The buzz around The Revenant is building. Early viewers have spoken of its graphic realism. There are murmurings that this could, finally, be Leonardo's year. Judging from the trailer below, If it isn't, it certainly won't be for the lack of trying.
The Wolf of Wall Street star compared filming to "an unhumorous Saturday Night Live" due to the time pressured window of opportunity to get footage on film. In what sounds like a unique experience, in order to capture the perfect ambiance, the cast were restricted to just a couple of hours of filming per day.
The 41-year-old likened the process to being on stage:
“To tell you the truth, it’s all a beautiful blur to me. This was such a unique process for all of us as actors, to come aboard a film that was very much like performing theater every single day. You had to rehearse meticulously, and then there was this mad, intense scramble to capture this magic light."
Conditions Were Against Us
Leo refers to this as "Chivo light," in reference to the nickname of Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Fresh from winning consecutive Academy Awards for Gravity (2013) and Birdman (2014), Lubezki couldn't have done much more to put himself in contention for the hat-trick.
He is notoriously meticulous in his way of working. The film was shot entirely with natural light, a challenge so epic many crew members were fired or resigned. A mixture of waiting for the perfect moment and tricky filming conditions meant a lot of the time the cast rehearsed painstakingly.
The conditions themselves were also incredibly harsh – in addition to Leo eating raw bison liver for real, often they were filming at temperatures of -30 degrees. This poses natural challenges for the actors and crew. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu himself struggled, as a "tropical man from Mexico City."
Iñárritu began scouting an impressive five years before production began, due to the obscurity of the locations used. The challenging landscapes ate into production time, often just getting on site took up 40% of the day.
The Most Difficult Film Any of Us Have Done
The story depicts the true events of frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is left for dead after he is mauled by a bear. He survives, and goes on a quest to enact revenge, taking on a 200 mile pilgrimage to find the men who left him.
Discussing the making of The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio said "it was the most difficult film, I think, that any of us have ever done." Whether the physical and mental challenge of creating the film will translate to critical acclaim remains to be seen. But the early signs are this could be Leo's year.