Domhnall sat down with Hunger TV alongside his co-star Will Poulter to talk about “The Revenant“. We have added the photoshoot outtakes in our gallery and the interview can be found below.
Setting aside space sagas and superhero schlock, The Revenant is about as big a film production you could possibly get right now. With director Alejandro González Iñárritu still basking in Oscar success with last year’s Birdman and arguably the biggest movie star in the world in Leo DiCaprio hell bent on winning one of his own, it’s been long expected that this would be a special project. Factor in an epic, archetypal Hollywood storyline (revenge!), some of the most astonishing photography you’ll see on the big screen, thanks to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and 65mm film, plus a fantastic supporting cast and you have something pretty spectacular to divert your attention for two and half hours.
We spoke with two members of the cast, the ever-excellent Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter, to discuss just how special an experience it was to make a film with such a punishing schedule and lofty ambitions.
Hunger: Is there any sense of trepidation when you start shooting a film like this?
Domhnall Gleeson:I got cast pretty last minute, only a few weeks before rehearsal and boot camp, but I just knew I really wanted to do it. And when we arrived all anyone was talking about was how great the script was and how excited we were to be there – so I wouldn’t say trepidation, more just excitement and a desire to do well. I didn’t really have time to get nervous.
Will Poulter: I felt similarly in that the script had so much excitement around it and I’d heard so many people say that it was the best script they’d ever read. And then with all the people attached to the project, saying yes wasn’t something I had to even think about. It was obviously a no-brainer. I did have a slight feeling of trepidation acting alongside Leo and Tom because it felt like a big step up for me. I didn’t have a lot of experience of working alongside actors, I don’t want to say of their caliber because I’ve worked with some great actors, but I’d never really with people I’d idolized before. But it was only scary as a concept. When we got there, the challenge of shooting didn’t allow for you to be nervous or have any self-doubt. There was so much to do and often so little time to achieve it, it was just about getting it done.
Did either of you approach your characters differently given that they are both historical figures?
WP: It’s always a real honor when you get to portray someone who really existed, and obviously Jim went on to become such a noteworthy frontiersmen, so that added a little additional pressure for me. There was definitely an additional sense of responsibility to get the basics right. But beyond basic facts about Jim – his age at the time, how he fitted into the story – for me and it was just about identifying with the human aspects of the character, just being a person on that environment. With Jim it was about zoning in on that transitional period between being a boy and becoming a man, and it just so happens to coincide with the most horrendous and difficult ordeal of his life.
Was there anything different in approach given Iñárritu’s style and the use of the new Arri Alexa 65mm cameras?
DG: It was complicated and difficult, for sure. But it was complicated and difficult for everyone. There were when you realised that if you didn’t hit your mark it might be the last chance I get to do this shot today and the possibility that it might be the chance ever, because if the weather’s not good tomorrow then it doesn’t matter what we did yesterday! You definitely didn’t want to be the person to spoil things! But the buzz of when it went right was absolutely electric. There were days when you could really feel everyone hitting a level. It was exhilarating.
WP: And in the approach to shooting this, I don’t think we fully knew what we were in for. We knew it was an ambitious shoot, we knew it was going to be difficult, we knew it was going to be a long shoot – but there was no preparing for what this was going to be like technically. On a basic level I thought I knew what my function was within a film but this film, for me, required me to totally reformat my process. You had to be so synchronised with the camera and collaborate so intimately with what camera were doing and their movements and their decisions that the whole process had to be redesigned. It wasn’t as simple as hit your mark, say your line, then get the other part on coverage. It was more like performing a live piece of theatre.
DG: For sure. It was a really strange mixture between discovering and planning. I think there’s a desire to stress how awful the whole thing was, and it was really hard, but the nights after we had a good day were among the best rides home you could ever wish for.
WP: When you shoot for an extended period of time, it’s only natural that you’re going to end up loving or hating each other, especially when you factor in extremely difficult working days. I don’t think you can come out of something like this and not have very strong feelings for one another. It was very unifying. We were quite reliant on one another in the end.
DG: Everybody went up and down. It takes a toll – it sounds ridiculous when actors say something like that – but this is the one instance where it doesn’t feel quite so bad saying that!
WP: A lot has been made of the weather conditions and how ‘gruelling’ it was but there is a small part of you that appreciates how much it reduced the acting challenge. When you needed to act cold, that was taken care of for you. When you needed to act exhausted, you genuinely were.
DG: The only problem was when Alejandro said, “I need you to look a little warmer”. What? What?! I’m freezing my fucking balls off here!
What’s it like working with him? He seems like such a leader on set.
DG: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. He challenged people all the time, including himself. And was never happy until he was delirious with happiness. He never settled for anything. And everyone got into the mindset that nothing’s acceptable except the absolute best.
WP: Working with a creative force that doesn’t compromise at all is so interesting and it provided us with a clear objective everyday. We all went into the day knowing what the aim was and everyone worked incredibly hard throughout the day in order to achieve that. There was a very focused and intense knowledge in the air of what we had to do and there wasn’t a lot of room for error. So it created a really very productive work environment. It was at all like we were operating on fear or being intimated into anything – it was just very intense. You could feel it in the air. Nearly everyday it was a grind to get it done.