Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘The Revenant’ Shoot Described as ‘A Living Hell’

July 24, 2015

Are there any actors who have managed to avoid off-screen horror stories during shoots from time to time? If so, consider yourself lucky! With all personalities and relationships among the cast and crew members, and the wide array of technical aspects to filmmaking, the possibilities of what can go wrong is virtually endless. In the case of the film The Revenant which is still in production, some crew members are describing it as the worst shoot they’ve ever been on by far, and one person even called the shoot “a living hell.”

Ironically, The Revenant is an epic survival story. It’s a western thriller based on the actual experiences of a fur trapper named Hugh Glass in the early 19th century played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mad Max Tom Hardy co-stars. Birdman director Alejandro G. Inarritu co-wrote the script and is directing the ambitious production. So what has been going so terribly wrong?

First of all, principal photography commenced in October 2014 and Inarritu anticipated it would end in about April or May; but, now it’s looking like it will wrap in August. This has taken the budget from $95 million to an anticipated $135 million or more.

The film is being shot only with natural light. Inarritu spoke about the difficult time constraints this arrangement creates, explaining that “shooting in such remote far-away locations … by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40-percent of the day.”

The storyline is set in extremely harsh, snowy conditions, and was originally going to be shot in Canada. But when Canada’s weather was not obliging, the crew was forced to find bitter cold much further south; that is, on the tip of Argentina where penguins find the temperatures comfortable.

Then there are a number of specific incidents like a naked character who was to be dragged on the ground for several takes, and an actor who was immersed in freezing water with a faulty dry suit which lead to him needing medical care after the scene. And there were times when the actors would block out scenes, and then they’d end up shooting something different from what they had rehearsed. Some described the director as temperamental and indecisive.

Because so much had gone wrong, many people had been griping along the way. As a result, many either quit or were fired–including one of the film’s producers, Jim Skotchdopole who successfully worked with Inarritu on Birdman, but who was apparently banned from The Revenant set, and then was replaced. Skotchdopole in particular has received harsh criticism for not preparing or communicating properly; in one instance, he had the cast and crew fly via helicopter to a forest location, and once they arrived, the landscape had unusable lighting.

“If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of s***. … When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, ‘Wow.'” Inarritu told The Hollywood Reporter. He feels that the complaints about the shoot are exaggerated, and he stands behinds the decisions he’s made along the way.

The Revenant is scheduled to be released on December 25, 2015.

How does this shoot compare to your worst experiences on set? And all in all, in your experience, are hellish shoots worth the effort in the end?