“The Revenant,” the upcoming Alejandro González Iñárritu film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as American frontiersman Hugh Glass, needed to find the right location for the wilderness drama set in the 1800s. After being brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by his team, DiCaprio’s Glass endures a harsh winter in the pursuit of vengeance and redemption. The setting literally sets the stage for the drama that unfolds.
Though the majority of the film was shot by Academy Award-winning DP Emmanuel Lubezki in Canada last winter, the filmmakers had to find the right location to film a complicated river sequence.
“We were tasked with matching the wilderness shot in the dead of winter in the summer,” Douglas Dresser, Location Manager of the Montana unit for “The Revenant,” recently told Indiewire. “The most challenging aspect was to find a white water river, a waterfall, ‘virgin’ landscapes and geology and fauna (or lack of) that would match the established wilderness.”Five location scouts spent weeks looking at most of the major rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Dresser said they scouted California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Ultimately, they found what they were looking for in Montana. “In Montana, we were fortunate to have the expert guidance of Bozeman native Will Brewster [a photographer], who was instrumental in landing the project in Montana,” said Dresser, who said he worked with the Montana Film Office from early on. “Montana was an obvious choice, but we had some contenders in other states.” The Montana Film Office helped guide Dresser and his colleagues through the process and made introductions to the United States Forest Service.
The importance of finding the right location can not be understated. “Location is everything!” said Dresser. “A great location hopefully adds to the audience experience in that it takes you into the character’s life. It makes you feel like you are there with them. I hope we did our job. I think we found a stunning part of the world. It’s one of my favorite locations ever. I cannot wait to return!”
“The Revenant” will hit select theaters on December 25, 2015 before its national release on January 8, 2016.