hardy revenant

Fitzgerlad’s speech about the squirrel and God is very illuminating. Was that a moment from the book or did you find that along the way?

[Laughs.] That was along the way. I’m giving all credit for that to Alejandro. We would write stuff sometimes and send it back-and-forth to each other, and… Fitzgerald is quoting the Bible and has this religious backstory, but then, “If a man is starving and God is a squirrel, do you eat the squirrel?” What’s more important? [Laughs.] It was a very interesting way to go at Fitzgerald with that scene.

Once principal photography began, were you still emailing each other pages?

With how him and Chivo [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki] shoot, everything is so choreographed that the script was locked-in without any changes, because it’s like a ballet for them. Everyone has to know their turn and what to say at the right moment, so there’s not a lot of improv or changes going on. He asked me to do a few things, if he found something wasn’t working quite right, but those were always very small. If he thought that he needed something, he’s confident and good enough to know how to make it work. Once it started shooting, I was the guy who just got to smile and watch.

I spoke to Mr. Iñárritu’s co-writers for Birdman, and they mentioned, because of how his camera flows and his use of transitions, they had to really keep his style in mind while writing. Did you do the same?

Him and Chivo would come up with a lot of that. Some of the things were accidents that would lead to scenes. It would get so cold at times and Leo’s breath would fog the lens, and then Alejandro and Chivo thought it was beautiful, would keep going, and then transition to clouds or smoke. In the opening, with the river attack, they shot it very Birdman-esque. They found they’re little stitch points and would go again, and he realized he wanted a little more scope, so he added cuts and things he originally hadn’t attended, to give it a more frantic feel.

The script itself pretty much stayed the same. When Alejandro came aboard in 2011, we had our version finished by 2012. We were going to shoot it with Leo, but then Leo went and did Wolf of Wall Street, so it got pushed back. After Alejandro did Birdman, he figured out that technique he liked, and our script was done by the time he learned some of the tricks.

Discussing those landscape shots, how did you want the environment and its history to reinforce Glass’ story?

I always knew I was going to open on a little stream or a river, and the water represented life. I had a little autumn leaf float down — and this has changed a little bit — but, from where I was coming at it, that started us on his journey. I knew it was going to be going through the seasons. It was very clear in the script the world got colder, icier, more frozen and harder. The branches freezing over, the snow, and the ice crunching beneath his booths, I felt it made him more isolated, like Glass was totally alone in this giant world, with these mountains surrounding him. The bigger the landscape and the colder the world could feel, the more solitary he became. That was always crucial to me, in the descriptions and how I wrote the script.

Unless I’m mistaken, I read the timeline was condensed.

Yes, we did condense it some. I did so much research. I liked the novel, but after I read it, I wanted to see what else was out there about Hugh Glass. From the novel itself, I think Alejandro and I used the grizzly attack and Fitzgerald and Bridger leaving him — and that was kind of it. The author, Michael Punke, became a friend, and he was so critical in helping me understand the vibe and the world, but character-wise and story-wise, even from my first drafts, I took it in what I thought was a more cinematic way. Then Alejandro added some elements, thematically and with some character stuff.

Continue Reading ‘The Revenant’ Mark L. Smith Interview >>

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