The making of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s 2015 survival drama “The Revenant” was an infamous nightmare, but it could have been even more challenging had the filmmaker gone through with his original plan to stage the entire movie as one take. The decision would have given Iñárritu his second consecutive one-take movie after “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” Of course “Birdman” is not an actual one-take but a series of long takes stitched together in editing to appear as a single shot. Regardless, planning for a one-take effect would have made the already-hectic “Revenant” shoot even more grueling. Leonardo DiCaprio revealed Iñárritu’s plan during a recent appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast.
“There was no way to foresee what he was going to do out there on ‘The Revenant,'” DiCaprio said of Iñárritu’s vision. “The script was one thing. It was a linear story of a guy surviving out in the wilderness. A great revenge story. What he did cinematically with that movie just blows me away. There was a point where he wanted to sort of continue that idea of a singular shot, like he had done with ‘Birdman,’ throughout the course of that entire wilderness until we got to the point that we realized that there are two characters that go in opposite directions.”
DiCaprio continued, “He quickly sort of improvised with [Emmanuel Lubezski], the great cinematographer, on trying to keep the linear, one-shot take idea but then cut back and forth. At one time, he was like, ‘No I’m going to do one shot all the way through.’ And then he realized there are thousands of miles between the two characters. But what they did on that movie and in those conditions, I don’t know how he pulled it off. It’s incredible.”
“The Revenant” was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won Iñárritu the Oscar for Best Director just a year after he won the same category for “Birdman.” Iñárritu is only the third filmmaker in history to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Director. “The Revenant” also won DiCaprio his Best Actor Oscar and Emmanuel Lubezski his third Best Cinematography Oscar. Universal’s Golden Globe-winning war film “1917” similarly employs a stiched-together one take to tell its story. The film opens nationwide this Friday.