“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “The Aviator,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” are looked at fondly by movie-goers. These movies are not only all critically acclaimed, but also films in which DiCaprio produced Academy Award-nominated performances. This list does not even include the incredible performances DiCaprio was not nominated for but perhaps should have been, such as “The Departed” and “Shutter Island.”
At this point, DiCaprio must feel like that one kid who is perpetually stuck with the “Participation Award” at a grade school awards ceremony. He has been nominated for five Academy Awards — three of those in the Best Actor category — and has been given the slip every time. It seems as though the Academy simply likes to tease DiCaprio.
But could this be the actor’s year? DiCaprio stars in Alejandro Inarritu’s new movie “The Revenant,” which debuts Christmas Day and is based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Michael Punke. Last year alone Inarritu received numerous accolades, including three Academy Awards for “Birdman.” One look at the trailer for “The Revenant” gives you a taste of Inarritu’s masterful directing along with the unique cinematographic style of Emmanuel Lubezki. Lubezki’s signature trailing shots and close-ups place the audience directly in the tundra with DiCaprio.
In the film, DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1820s who is mauled by a bear while hunting in the American wilderness. Betrayed by his companions, Glass also loses his half-Native American son to the murderous hands of John Fitzgerald, played by the talented actor Tom Hardy. The story unfolds with drama as Glass seeks vengeance for his son’s death. However, if the plot itself isn’t enough to capture the audience’s attention, listening to what DiCaprio endured during shooting sure will.
“I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” DiCaprio told Yahoo during an interview. “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.”
When asked about the scene of the bear mauling in particular, DiCaprio responded quite honestly, admitting those scenes and other sequences were some of the more difficult things he’s ever had to do in his career.
“But the end result is going to be one of the most immersive experiences audiences will ever have with what it would be like to come face-to-face with an animal of that magnitude that is incredibly primal,” DiCaprio told Yahoo.
The film was described as “a living hell” to shoot by many crew members. The entire cast and production crew suffered through hypothermia-inducing temperatures, a reported minus 40 degrees with wind chill in some areas. Some actors were supposedly submerged in freezing water, and one was supposedly dragged naked across ice during a 200-person battle scene.
Inarritu’s choice to shoot the film in sequence and Lubezki’s preference for natural light left only a short period of time each day when the film could be shot, which meant increased rehearsal time for everyone involved.
Obviously, no one knows exactly what the Academy is looking for in this year’s films. However, if actors putting their bodies through hell in order to give the audience the most realistic viewing experience possible is any part of the criteria — as it has been in the past — DiCaprio should have this award in the bag.
Even if the Academy decides to gip DiCaprio on yet another Oscar-worthy performance, it is clear that he already has the honorary Oscar in many viewer’s hearts. DiCaprio’s chances are looking good, however, if the Oscar buzz is any indicator. If he loses out however, fans can only hope DiCaprio’s “heart will go on.”