Leonardo DiCaprio’s Revenant unspools on Christmas Day, and the actor’s already touting it as the most difficult film he has ever done, thanks to raw bison parts and apocalyptic weather. He explained to Wired that “the endurance that [the cast] all had to have is very much up on the screen.” Since he plays a fur trapper who nearly dies, DiCaprio also shared some of his own close brushes with death (because, apparently, he’s been preparing for this role his whole life). Read on for the interview highlights, from contending with Mother Nature to almost getting eaten by a shark:
On the difficult technical aspects of the film:
We had months of rehearsal beforehand, but every day was like doing a play. Each actor, each bit of the set, needed to be like gears in a Swiss watch, because the camera was moving around and you had to have your timing perfect. So we rehearsed every day, and then we had a two-hour window of natural light to shoot. … [Iñárritu] would have the camera veer off to this expansive battle sequence, then come right back to another intimate moment with the character. They had coordinated all that stuff with a lot of precision. But of course when we got there, the elements sort of took over.
On the horrors of surviving Mother Nature:
We had a lot of complications while shooting, because it was the hottest year in recorded history. In Calgary there were all these extreme weather events. One day we were trying to do a scene and it turned out to be 40 below zero, so the gears of the camera didn’t work. Then twice during the movie we had 7 feet of snow melt in a day — all of it, within five hours — and we were stuck with two or three weeks of no snow in a film that’s all snow. So we had to shut down production multiple times. … We had to go to the southern tip of Argentina, to the southernmost town on the planet, to find snow.
On the shark that almost ate him:
A great white jumped into my cage when I was diving in South Africa. Half its body was in the cage, and it was snapping at me. … They leave the tops open and you have a regulator line running to the surface. Then they chum the water with tuna. A wave came and the tuna sort of flipped up into the air. A shark jumped up and grabbed the tuna, and half its body landed inside the cage with me. I sort of fell down to the bottom and tried to lie flat. The great white took about five or six snaps an arm’s length away from my head. The guys there said that has never happened in the 30 years they’d been doing it.
On the difficult plane he was in that partially exploded:
I was in business class [flying Delta Airlines to Russia], and an engine blew up in front of my eyes. It was right after “Sully” Sullenberger landed in the Hudson. I was sitting there looking out at the wing, and the entire wing exploded in a fireball. I was the only one looking out at the moment this giant turbine exploded like a comet. It was crazy. They shut all the engines off for a couple of minutes, so you’re just sitting there gliding with absolutely no sound, and nobody in the plane was saying anything. It was a surreal experience. They started the engines back up, and we did an emergency landing at JFK.
On the difficult parachutes with which he went skydiving:
It was a tandem dive. We pulled the first chute. That was knotted up. The gentleman I was with cut it free. We did another free fall for like another 5, 10 seconds. I didn’t even think about the extra chute, so I thought we were just plummeting to our death. He pulled the second, and that was knotted up too. He just kept shaking it and shaking it in midair, as all my friends were, you know, what felt like half a mile above me, and I’m plummeting toward earth. [Laughs.] And he finally unravels it in midair. The fun part was when he said, “You’re probably going to break your legs on the way down, because we’re going too fast now.” So after you see your whole life flash in front of your eyes — twice — he says, “Oh, your legs are going to get broken too.”
You can read the whole Wired story, which includes DiCaprio’s thoughts on Bernie Sanders and climate change, here.