Is The Revenant Based On A True Story? (Spoiler Alert, Obvs)

As Leo finally wins his Oscar, we take a look at the questions people are asking about Alejandro González Iñárritu

Is The Revenant Based On A True Story? (Spoiler Alert, Obvs)

by Tabi Jackson Gee |
Published on

It's the film that finally got Leo his Oscar. I don’t know about you but he ruddy deserved it, especially after his acceptance speech which he used as an opportunity to celebrate the indigenous communities around the world that have often been ignored by Hollywood. Oh, and also to talk about climate change and how much he loves the planet. So yeah, three cheers for Leo.

The Revenant itself won three of the 12 Oscars for which it was nominated. Which is lucky after what Alejandro González Iñárritu’s team went through to create the film; travelling for hours each day and filming in -25C temperatures to fulfil the director’s vision of only filming in natural light. Hardcore.

But what's the story behind the story? Here's your need to know...

What is The Revenant about?

The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a 19th century bear trapper. Glass and his Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are guiding a fur trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domnhnall Gleeson).

After losing the majority of their expedition in a battle with a Native American tribe, Glass himself was brutally mauled by a bear. Then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the mighty-scary John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) murderered Hawk in front of Glass and leaves the Glass for dead. Back home at Fort Kiowa, Fitzgerald forces fellow party member Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to corroborate his story.

As you guessed, Glass of course isn’t dead. And instead comes around, finding himself buried in a shallow grave and abandoned by his team. He’s hella angry and makes it his mission to face the mammoth journey back home in order to wreak revenge on the men who’ve ditched him.

Was The Revenant based on a true story?

In part, yes. The tale of fur trapper Hugh Glass is recorded in various places, although the only part of his story that has been documented first hand is in a letter he wrote to his parents. The rest of what we know of his life is conjecture, apart from the odd appearance of his name and tall tales in various papers that have little factual evidence to back them up.

The actual bear attack which left him critically injured supposedly happened in the summer of 1823, five months after Glass had joined the expedition in South Dakota. He came across a bear, startled her, and found himself the victim of a vicious attack. Turns out he’d made the mistake of coming between her and her two cubs. Oops. His hunting companions came to his rescue, and shot the animal who had by this point very badly injured him. He didn't have a Native American son.

The rest of the tale is vague, and various different accounts of it have made it hard to say what’s true and what’s not, but according to various reports IRL he made it back alive and decided - (against my better judgement) - to forgive the bastards who’d left him to die a sad and lonely death.

Is The Revenant a book?

The movie is based on The Revenant: A Novel Of Revenge by Michael Punke, which itself is loosely based on real life events. But what the book added to the actual events is the angry revenge plot, which the movie now centres around.

Does Hugh Glass die at the end of The Revenant?

No. According to the campfire legends, Glass ended this part of his story in one piece unlike the film which leaves the ending open and ambiguous. What actually happened, according to reports, is that yes, Glass set off to go and find Bridger and Fitzgerald after his return but, whilst he found them both individually, he spared Fitzgerald because he was so young and spared Bridger because of the heavy price he'd have to pay for killing an American soldier.

However, several years later, while Glass was still working on the frontier, this time as a hunter for the US Army, his expedition was set upon by a group of Arikara native Americans and he was killed along with two of his men.

Did The Revenant use a real bear?

Here’s a few things you need to know about The Bear. First, it didn’t rape Leo, which is one rumour that was flying around about the movie’s events before its release. Secondly - and I really hate to break this to you - the bear is not real. It was played by an Minnesotan stunt man named Tim Sitarz, and then cleverly manipulated to look like a real life bear with the help of some expensive CGI.

Side note: if anyone gets hold of behind the scene footage of Leo rolling around with a bear sized stunt man before all the CGI stuff happened, please send it our way.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Here's The Real, Chilling Story Gone Girl Was Based On

This Girl Staged A Real Life Version Of Gone Girl To Get Back At Her Ex

Oscars Red Carpet 2016: If Dresses Could Talk

Follow Tabi on Twitter @Tabijgee

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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