Alejandro González Iñárritu on Filming a Difficult Scene in 'The Revenant'

Anatomy of a Scene - The Revenant
As you've probably heard plenty of times already, The Revenant was a difficult shoot.

Whatever their process was, it seems to have worked, as the film has been nominated for a total of twelve Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, in addition to Best Actor and Best Cinematography. In this NYT Anatomy of a Scene video, director Alejandro González Iñárritu elaborates on the difficulty of a particular escape scene, which required actor Leonardo DiCaprio and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to enter freezing waters:

And here's the trailer if you haven't seen the film yet:

Here's more from the NYT interview with Iñárritu:

Your cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, went into the water to shoot this?

Yes. He went in with the camera and to do these choreographed movements. Every movement was designed months in advance. The second part of the river sequence, in Montana, was shot 11 months after the first. It took us almost a year for us to understand how we were going to do it technically.

The first part of the sequence, which was shot in Calgary, required DiCaprio to wear special clothing under the pelt so that he could stay in the water for longer periods. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that the pelt got much heavier when it was wet, so swimming became even harder. The important part of all of this is that they choreographed the scene as much as they could. There is a certain amount of risk involved in filming dangerous scenes, but that risk should be minimized as much as possible for everyone involved. 

While they didn't fake anything in The Revenant, it's hard not to wonder how much of that suffering shows up on screen. Would it have been a different film if it wasn't quite so cold and they didn't shoot for quite so long? It's impossible to know, but certainly there were more than a few people who believed in this process and came along for the ride, and it's already paid off in awards season.      

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Incredible! Just saw the IMAX version today. This may be the greatest cinematic achievement to date.

January 16, 2016 at 8:44PM

Richard Krall

Joe I don't know how you can say 'whatever their process was, it seems to have worked' given the controversy over the working conditions for the crew on this film. It's all well and good to enjoy the film and turn a blind eye but surely you don't want to go so far as to congratulate these actions. Shame on you as a fellow "filmmaker" and writer.

January 17, 2016 at 4:10AM


It worked in terms of awards season, that's all I'm saying, and no, that doesn't mean I'm encouraging putting crew through hell, and I wonder how that sort of thing even shows up on screen, as that's how I started my last paragraph.

I'm not a big fan of "he said, she said" sorts of articles, especially when so much of it seems to be coming third-party and as rumors — though it's clear that the shoot was difficult.

Here's the biggest point of all that we shouldn't be forgetting: if the shoot was legitimately dangerous (and it may well have been), the unions should have come in and shut it down. That's what they're there for. On a film this big, with this big of a budget, you'd have a very hard time getting away with consistent safety violations over the course of such a long shoot.

January 17, 2016 at 7:36AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

Why English-speaking media keeps spelling Iñárritu? I trust the exotic vowels and concatenates are generally replaced by closest matches without regard for the correctness of the pronunciation. How many English-only speakers know how to pronounce "ñ" and "á"? And since the vast majority does not, this is quite a wasted effort to put those special characters in :)

PS And I thought it was NFS's thing, but NYT also does it. Go figure.

January 17, 2016 at 1:50PM

You voted '-1'.

Why? Because that's his name. Or shall we simply call you Alex Z. from now on since half the world can't pronounce your last name? Congratulations on your contributions to make the internet a slightly dumber place.

January 17, 2016 at 2:55PM


Excellent comment Fabián!

January 17, 2016 at 10:26PM

Ruben arce

Thanks for the accent, Ruben. That was unnecessarily kind of you :)

January 18, 2016 at 9:37PM


Well said!

January 17, 2016 at 10:48PM


A great movie to watch for the visuals and audience involvement by that wide angle, close-up filming! But, to be a bit of a party pooper, I think it was a little far-fetched in realistically portraying what a person can survive. Forget the hypothermia, Glass would have been dead halfway through that magnificent bear-mauling scene (a scene that is a reason in itself to see the movie!). They must not have showed the parts where he gets transfused a few liters of blood and saline afterwards so that he can have the strength to crawl out of the hole :)

January 19, 2016 at 12:40PM

Harlan Rumjahn
Low-level government official

If they had the Alexa65 anyway, why didn't they use it for all (or, at least, more) of the movie? Is it just too big to use for everything?

January 19, 2016 at 8:38PM

Richard Krall