LOS ANGELES, USA – Leonardo DiCaprio eats a piece of real bison liver in his new movie The Revenant, a harrowing tale of revenge and survival in a frigid setting of the American Old West.
Is this what the guy has to do to win an Oscar, after 25 years of acting and five Academy Award nominations but ultimately no statuette?
The original plan was for him to bite into a simulated organ – "this red, gelatinous sort of pancake" – but DiCaprio said no, it looked fake.
"I wanted to get the real thing," he told NBC's Today show this week.
"It was completely disgusting. My reaction is very much on screen, which is a nauseating one."
In the latest film by acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu, DiCaprio, 41, plays a fur trapper named Hugh Glass out on the frontier of 1820s America. The movie, which came out Friday in North America, is based on a true story.
Glass is betrayed by colleagues who rob him, leave him for dead – buried alive – and kill his half-Indian son. Glass must then survive on his own, without a weapon, in a harsh, frozen landscape, with just one thing on his mind: revenge.
DiCaprio said the movie, which has enjoyed strong reviews and a string of nominations in Hollywood awards season, captures "the poetry of what it means to have all the chips stacked against you, to have very little chance of survival and this triumph of the human spirit."
The ordeal DiCaprio endures as Glass is a far cry from his role as a flashback teen version of a rich man named Mason Capwell on the soap opera Santa Barbara, which aired in the 1980s and 90s.
DiCaprio shot to global fame with Gilbert Grape in 1993, playing alongside Johnny Depp.
Fighting a grizzly bear
The Revenant marks a powerful return for Inarritu, whose film Birdman about a washed-up actor trying to make a comeback on Broadway won 4 Oscars last year, including best film and best director.
The new flick brings together heart-stopping action scenes by master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and fabulous footage of a snowy wilderness filmed in natural light.
The special effects are excellent, be it a scene of Glass fighting a grizzly bear or plunging off a cliff on horseback.
But Glass's journey is also an emotional one, fueled by fear, hunger for vengeance and the pain of having lost his entire family.
The film handicapping website Goldderby.com says that thanks to his portrayal of Glass, DiCaprio is very likely to win the prize for best actor in a dramatic role at the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, january 10 and best actor at the Oscars on February 28.
A favorite actor of Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street), DiCaprio has won two Golden Globes, for his work in the latter and in The Aviator.
He has come up empty-handed with his five Oscar nominations, however.
But his time may have come because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on who gets the coveted statuettes, has a soft spot for actors in physically demanding roles.
That of Glass is an example par excellence. DiCaprio described the filming, done in Canada and Argentina, as the hardest he has ever done.
"We had a massive crew that had to logistically move from these remote locations through these incredibly harsh winter landscapes," he said.
"Like these fur trappers, we had to adapt to our environment."
To wit: DiCaprio was forced to film buck-naked in the snow, climb snow-covered mountains in sub-freezing temperatures wearing thick furs, spend hours lying still in the cold, or swim in frozen rivers. Then there was the bit with the raw bison liver.
The Revenant, which cost nearly $135 million, gets a thumbs-up from 81 percent of film critics who see it, according to Rottentomatoes.com.
It seems set to be a box-office success as well: Its first-weekend revenue is forecast at around $35-40 million. – Veronique Dupont, AFP/Rappler.com