Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Leo Ate Raw Bison Liver For 'The Revenant,' A 'Living Hell' Of A Production

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

The Revenant, one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year, also been talked about as one of the most difficult film shoots ever, joining a list that includes the notoriously brutal sets of Apocalypse Now, Cleopatra, and Titanic. Director Alejandro Inarritu's pretentious unusual decision to shoot the film entirely in sequence, and to only use natural light, while unnecessary and overblown admirable, led to a lot of problems for production. A story from The Hollywood Reporter cited a crew member describing the shoot as "a living hell." So, what exactly encompassed this hell? Let's explore. Here's what we get from the THR article:

Multiple sources say the film started to spin out of control early on, as a major battle scene was shot over two weeks. Originally it was going to involve about 30 trappers and about as many Native Americans, but it expanded to 200 players. Leaving little time for the crew to prepare, Inarritu decided that a naked character should be dragged along the ground. The director remembers being concerned about the actor's genitals and laying 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," says Inarritu. While crewmembers say the actor was in pain, Inarritu dismisses that as "a lie."

Here's more from Variety, in which Leo came right out in praise of Inarritu's direction on set:

"I just want to set the record straight," DiCaprio says over several glasses of wine during a 75-minute interview at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, with Inarritu by his side. "There's been a lot said about the movie and the difficulties making it, and how meticulous Alejandro is with his vision. But to me, that's the shit that should be praised. I don't want to work with somebody who isn't thinking of every possible aspect of what's up on the screen. I think there's a hunger for audiences to see something completely extreme and difficult."
Support for LAist comes from

This is certainly the appropriate language for someone who a) is thirsting hard for an Oscar and b) gets paid over $20 million per film. Speaking of which: how much money would it take for you to eat bison liver, for real?

"The bad part is the membrane around it," DiCaprio says. "It's like a balloon. When you bite into it, it bursts in your mouth."

Sounds like Gushers to me, Leo!

What was it like to film the infamous not-bear-rape scene?

The scene was shot over several days in November last year, in a torrential rainstorm, which created added hardships, given that the fight is choreographed in one take, with rigs of makeup blood exploding over DiCaprio's face. Inarritu had studied bear attacks on YouTube, and the special effects team had created an elaborate dance with the help of harnesses, ropes and stunt men who tackled DiCaprio as stand-ins for the beast. The bear itself is CGI.

On using snowmobiles to carry messages in lieu of cell phones:

The cast set up shop overnight in small villages, and would drive for up to two hours each day to the uncovered set. "It was bizarre, because we were making a big movie with a small camera team," says Lubezki, who wore six layers of thermal clothes to keep warm. "We didn't have normal gear. We didn't have lights." The lack of a cellphone signal meant that crew members had to relay messages via snowmobiles.

Spoiler alert: Leo's phlegm is *not* CGI.
The first few months were plagued by nonstop storms and threats of frostbite. But despite the harsh weather, DiCaprio insists he was never injured. He did, however, get sick repeatedly. "I got the flu quite a few times," he allows. In one scene, where the other men in his troop carry him up a hill on a stretcher, Glass lets out a guttural cough. That's not, in fact, acting, but DiCaprio spewing out phlegm.

Tiny, six-legged background actors were specially flown in from another part of Canada, and it sounds like they were real divas about their flight arrangements:

The director admits he was a stickler for details. When he discovered there were no ants on the snow-trodden grounds of Calgary, he had them imported from British Columbia for a scene where they crawl over DiCaprio. "We had to fly the ants in," Inarritu says. "Two flights, because some of them died in the first flight. They were panicked by the altitude. They fly first-class!"
Support for LAist comes from

On footwear:

He even made sure the character's footwear looked authentic while keeping the actors from losing their toes from the cold. "We had to build special moccasins that had protection and warmth," Inarritu says. Adds DiCaprio: "And a grip. To give us a little traction, so we weren't like a bunch of happy gnomes, sliding all over the ice."

But even the ice was fickle; when warm spring winds came to Alberta, the premature melting of snow became a factor right as the crew was preparing to shoot an intense battle scene set in the snow, so Inarritu insisted the shoot relocate to Argentina, which cost $$$. According to the New York Times, the film was set to cost about $60 million, and soared to a reported $135 million—much of this over budget cost due to the relocation.

When the Times asked Inarritu if he'd ever shoot in conditions like he did on The Revenant ever again, he responded, "Never again."