No one has been shy about the difficulties that have been endured during the production of Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s “The Revenant.” The filmmaker’s insistence to shoot his wintry drama in sequence, on real deal locations, in natural daylight, has seen his reliance on unpredictable weather lead to a movie that still has yet to shoot its ending, even though the release date is just months away. So yes, things haven’t been easy, but as a new report from THR notes, the behind-the-scenes drama may be matching, or exceeding, whatever ends up on screen.
According to the trade, the film’s budget is soaring. Originally kicking off with a pricetag of $60 million, the film’s costs have already jumped to $95 million are expected to exceed $135 million once all is said and done. And according to an unnamed source, the shoot has been “a living hell.” And the blame seems to be coming down to two people: producer Jim Skotchdopole —who was reportedly barred from the set, and left the movie — and Iñárritu himself.
In the case of the former, it seems poor planning was a factor in exacerbating whatever issues the filmmaker might’ve been having during an already technically challenging shoot. “You’ve got to let the director know: ‘We can’t do that. We have no money or time in the schedule,'” a crewmember told the trade. While Iñárritu denies barring the producer from the set, he does say the problems got so bad that the hiatus in the midst of the production was extended from two to six weeks as a result, which was one of the contributing factors to Tom Hardy dropping out of “Suicide Squad.” Mary Parent eventually took over for Skotchdopole on set.
Elsewhere, it seems there was a general lack of understanding of just how demanding doing elaborate, “Birdman“-style tracking shots in the middle of winter in natural light might be or how much it might cost. “It’s 4 o’clock, and you’ve got an hour and a half of daylight, and it’s not the light he wants to shoot in. If you want to seamlessly stitch [the footage] together, it’s not going to match,” a crewmember told THR, while another complained that, “We’d never shoot what we blocked. Everything was indecisive….”
For his part, the director is meeting the criticism head on. “I have nothing to hide,” he told THR. “There were problems, but none of them made me ashamed.” And he owns up to the rumors of multiple crew members being fired, replaced, or quitting saying, “as a director, if I identify a violin that is out of tune, I have to take that from the orchestra.” However, one senses that the on set problems only fed the creative drive of the entire effort.
“There was something very positive about shooting in those conditions, to understand what those guys [from the 1820s] went through,” Iñárritu told Grantland. “We don’t have adventures anymore. Now people say, ‘I went to India … it’s an adventure.’ No: We have GPS, a phone, nobody gets lost. Those guys really were in a huge physical, emotional adventure in [an] unknown territory. After you see what these guys went through, you understand what pussies we are: Our apartment is not at the right temperature, there is no ham in the fridge, and the water is a little cold … When did that happen?
“Actors were not in sets with green screens and laughing,” he added. “They were miserable! And they really feel the fucking cold in their ass! They were not acting at all!”
There is an odd poetry about a survival drama struggling to find its way to completion, but it would seem foolish to bet on anything but Iñárritu seeing the job through in spectacular style. “The Revenant” opens on Christmas Day.