‘The Revenant’: Leonardo DiCaprio Couldn’t Comprehend His Bear-Fighting Scene When He First Read the Movie Script — ‘Do I Give Him a Right Hook?’

One of the most memorable scenes in The Revenant is Leonardo DiCaprio’s intense standoff with a mother bear. She literally rips him to shreds before he manages to subdue her, and he’s never quite the same after.  

As crazy as the scene was for viewers to watch, it was even crazier for DiCaprio to execute. At first, he couldn’t even grasp what the film’s director was evening asking him to do. 

Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t sure what ‘fighting a bear’ would look like

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio attends the Tokyo premiere for ‘The Revenant’ | Jun Sato/WireImage

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When DiCaprio first found out he was going to have to fight a bear in the movie, he wasn’t sure what to think. Obviously, there’s no way to safely stage a fight with a real bear, so it’s understandable why DiCaprio would be confused. 

However, DiCaprio would soon find out exactly what director Alejandro Iñárritu wanted to do with the scene. 

“I remember talking to Alejandro very early on about the sequence, and I was reading the script, and he’d read the screenplays like, ‘Hugh Glass fights the bear,’” DiCaprio said in a resurfaced 2016 SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview. “I’m like, ‘So, what do I do? Do I give him like, a right hook? How would I fight a bear?’ And then you don’t really realize that it’s not a fight at all, you’re just mauled, and it’s like a giant cat throwing you around like a ball of yarn around the forest. There’s no fight.” 

Alejandro Iñárritu put a lot of effort into developing the bear fight sequence 

Countless people have asked both DiCaprio and Iñárritu how they managed to pull off such a realistic-looking sequence. However, Iñárritu refuses to reveal the details behind the scene. DiCaprio himself was captivated by Iñárritu’s ability to craft the on-screen battle. 

“People have been talking about this sequence a lot, and rightfully so, because what I think he and Chibo have done is something very groundbreaking,” DiCaprio said. “It’s almost like virtual reality. I keep saying, it’s like being this sort of voyeuristic insect that’s floating around watching something that you shouldn’t be watching. … There’s so much thought that he put into this.”

Although DiCaprio wouldn’t reveal how Iñárritu created the sequence, he did mention some of the tools the director used. 

“A hundred different clips of bear attacks, taking away the human characteristics of an animal, which he’s talked about a lot,” DiCaprio said. “How every grizzly bear seems to be extra ferocious, and horses seem to be friendly to man … He made it raw, and visceral. I mean, all the way down to the texture of the bear’s skin. He wanted to make it grimier and dirtier …”

Leonardo DiCaprio loves the bear-fighting scene 

DiCaprio is such a big fan of the scene that he thinks it will be talked about for many years to come. 

“It’s profound filmmaking, and—rightfully so—I think as the history of cinema unfolds, people are gonna be talking about this sequence for a long time,” DiCaprio said.