With Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Oscar win tonight as Best Director for The Revenant, the director became part of Academy history by becoming the first director in 65 years to win back-to-back directing Oscars. The only other two in that elite club are helmers John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Inarritu also directed Leonardo DiCaprio to his first ever Oscar with The Revenant.
The Mexican helmer also took home the top honor at this years’ DGA Awards and those awards are usually the precursor for the Oscars. He shares the win with his Birdman and Revenant cinematographer, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki who has become the first DP to win Oscars three years in a row (Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant).
In accepting the award, he said he was “very lucky to be here tonight, okay, but unfortunately, many others haven’t had the same luck. There is a line in the film that says, (character Hugh) Glass to his mixed-race son, ‘They don’t listen to you, they just see the color of your skin.’ So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
The Revenant, which followed the story of frontiersman Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) in the 1820s as he tries to survive a bear attack, Native Americans, a rushing river and both the worst of Mother Nature and human nature, was a long, hard, freezing cold and sometimes dangerous shoot. One scene involved a real avalanche, intentionally perpetrated by the production’s helicopter. In fact, in one interview the director gave early on, he referred to himself and the cast and crew as “survivors.”
Visually stunning, Inarritu was bent on using natural light which severely impacted the number of hours the crew were able to shoot in a day. The production took them to some of the coldest regions on Earth — to Calgary, Alberta, British Columbia — and when they desperately needed snow, they ended up in Ushuaia, Argentina (as close to Antarctica as you can be). A handful of people either quit or were fired, unwilling or unable to endure the brutally rough — and as some alleged ‘unsafe’ — shoot.
Eight months and about $135M later, The Revenant was born. The picture, based on the book of the same name by Michael Punke, won three Oscars after being nominated for 12. The Revenant has grossed $404M worldwide through today.