OSCAR-WINNING director Alejandro G. Iñárritu brings the legend of Hugh Glass to the screen with “The Revenant,” an epic adventure set in the unchartered 19th-century American frontier.
Immersing audiences in the unparalleled beauty, mystery and dangers of life in 1823 America, the film explores one man’s transformation in a quest for survival.
Part thriller, part wilderness journey, “The Revenant” explores primal drives not only for life itself but for dignity, justice, faith, family and home.
While on an expedition into the uncharted wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally mauled by a bear, then abandoned by members of his own hunting team. Alone and near death, Glass refuses to succumb.
Driven by sheer will and his love for his Native American wife and son, he undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
For two centuries, the story of Hugh Glass has stood as one of the most astonishing tales of a man going beyond all expected limits of body, mind and soul.
Born in Philadelphia in 1773, little is known about the real Glass’ early life, but it is believed he spent years at sea as a pirate. He journeyed West in his 30s, and in 1823, fatefully signed up for Captain Andrew Henry’s expedition to explore the Missouri River.
It was when the expedition neared what is now Lemmon, South Dakota, that Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear and abandoned by the men assigned to stay with him who assumed, incorrectly, he would soon die.
Glass himself left no writing behind, save a solitary letter addressed to the parents of a companion killed by the Arikara Indians. When he turned up alive, newspapermen of the day spread his tale across the nation. Since then, there have been biographies and novels; but in 2002, author Michael Punke published one of the most extensively researched accounts with “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge.”
Intriguingly, Punke has a whole other career as a US trade representative, but he also had a lifelong fascination with mountain men that led him to comb through every resource to give the most lifelike rendering of Glass yet.
The book was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a spellbinding tale of heroism and obsessive retribution” and became a favorite of readers who like high adventure. Three of those readers included Anonymous Content producers Steve Golin, Keith Redmon and David Kanter.
Anonymous Content enlisted Mark L. Smith to write a screenplay. Smith saw in the story a chance to give people an experience we can barely imagine in our 21st-century technology-driven lives.
“Back in the 1820s, when you were left in the wilderness, you were left in the wilderness. You couldn’t pull an iPhone out of your pocket,” Smith notes. “Glass is thrown into nearly unimaginable experiences: from going over waterfalls to fighting wolves off a buffalo. His story is an adventure, but it is also a rich, emotional journey and I felt it could also be an amazing visual spectacle.”
The idea became a reality when Iñárritu came aboard, hoping to take audiences directly into a world that has long fascinated and beckoned—yet remained inaccessible.
Iñárritu brought fictional twists to the already apocryphal stories of Glass, while continually diving further down to explore the resonant themes beneath the surface. “I was interested in exploring not only the physical paths of Glass and Fitzgerald but also their psychologies, their dreams, their fears and their losses,” the director explains. “The storyline was a great base, as in music, but what’s going on in their minds and their hearts are the solos, the trumpets and piano.”
“The Revenant” opens Feb. 3 in cinemas (2D and IMAX screens) from 20th Century Fox, distributed by Warner Bros.