'The Revenant' Press Narrative Is Already Breaking Apart

Two production updates tell differing stories.


Earlier this week, Grantland and The Hollywood Reporter offered their takes on the production of the upcoming Alejandro G. Inarritu film, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a 19th century explorer that gets mauled by a bear and abandoned in the woods by his rival, played by Tom Hardy. Grantland positions it as an creative triumph from an artist using his Oscar mojo to produce something significant while THR says it’s an off-the-rails production led by a power hungry perfectionist willing to put the wellbeing of the entire production in jeopardy. The film won’t be out for a while and we’ve already got competing narratives. That’s called buzz.

According to THR, crew members have been disillusioned by Inarritu’s decision to shoot deep in the Canadian wilderness for months on end, long enough to cause many to quit or describe the isolated experience as “a living hell.” The troubles even led to producer Jim Skotchdopole to be banned from the set. Most are angry that the director made the decision to shoot in natural light, causing debilitating delays that have driven the film over schedule and over budget.

To quell the negative rumors, Inarritu made the surprising move of reaching out to defend himself and the movie five months before its release date. “I have nothing to hide,” he said. “There were problems, but none of them made me ashamed.”

They also had Brad Weston, the CEO of the film’s production company, try to put out fires. “We were in uncharted territory,” Weston said. “Everyone who came aboard this project, cast and crew alike, understood this going in, and we all support Alejandro and his vision. The performances are extraordinary and the film is great.”

On the flip side, Grantland framed the rough going by having DiCaprio chime in about the constructive side of the on-set challenges and the extent of his method acting. “The preparation was really more being completely in tune with my surroundings,” DiCaprio explained early on, “and doing my best to pretend that no one was around, because it is so much about this man’s isolation and his will to live — somebody that’s lost everything.”

Inarritu, who also spoke to Grantland, explained that the harsh conditions were only meant to be a conduit to bring the movie a better sense of reality. “There was something very positive about shooting in those conditions, to understand what those guys [from the 1820s] went through. We don’t have adventures anymore,” he said, and continued, “After you see what these guys went through, you understand what pussies we are.”

DiCaprio furthered his defense: “You are really at times within this character’s head,” he said. “You are experiencing what he’s experiencing, as an audience member. It’s really a unique film, and I don’t think it’s something people have ever seen before. [Iñárritu] pulls off some pretty astounding techniques. If you can have the audience submerge into a completely different reality, you’re accomplishing something pretty profound.”

Our intrepid director is either a madman destined to will a box office bomb into existence, or he’s a tortured, Kubrickian genius ready to deliver a new cinema classic. This is what we talk about when we talk about The Revenant. We’re going to will this thing into significance, potentially before it arrives in theaters.