There’s been much talk about The Revenant being Leonardo DiCaprio’s ticket to getting that Oscar gold (finally cries the breathless internet). While the acting praise has largely rested in the DiCaprio and Tom Hardy camp, it was actually two lesser known names, Domnhall Gleeson and Will Poulter, who drew my eyes and delivered the two strongest and most nuanced performances of the film. I was lucky enough to speak to Poulter at a round table press event where he spoke to journalists about the harsh realities of the film. He spoke about how natural, unforgiving setting of the shoot actually helped because it reduced the challenge of acting-they were really tired. The lighting conversely also added an extra layer of difficulty, preparing the actors to be on the very best each take as if they were a “live piece of theater”.
Everything, Poulter said, had to be meticulously planned out. Despite all the challenges he said he would do it again, because “it feels real”.
TYF: How did this role come about?
I read the script probably five months prior to shooting and there was a lot of excitement around it you know for obvious reasons…As far as I know the script had been around for a number of years but hadn’t been made since it was such a great undertaking and there were few people who were talented enough or crazy enough to attempt it.
So it had been around for a while but I didn’t know that by the time I had read it. What I was struck by immediately was how emotionally engaging it was just on page. It was visceral on paper. In my mind there were no doubts that I wanted to be involved. I felt with someone like Alejandro [Iñárritu] involved and this kind of cast it can only get better from here. So certainly, certainly I wanted to be involved and sent in a tape and my tape was okay, I was really not necessarily that happy with it. I was lucky enough to get a meeting with Alejandro in London and we met up for a chat and I was struck by what an intelligent and compassionate, interesting man he is and I immediately wanted to work with him.
When I was offered the role a few days later I couldn’t believe it but I was of course hugely honored and very excited. I couldn’t wait to get started.
TYF: It was clearly a very physical film. Was there any preparation work needed in leading up to it.
There was some initial weight loss stuff and that was something that developed throughout the film, especially with me and Tom [Hardy] because we were really out there.
There was some boot camping…we had to familiarize ourselves with weapons and some of the tools that they used, parts of basic survival training and that was fun.
TYF: How did working with Alejandro Iñárritu differ from past directors you’ve worked with. Did you learn anything new?
I suppose I learned from his unique way of shooting, his very technical way and the challenges that came from working with him. I learned something quite valuable from him to accept what feels instinctively natural. I’m quite an instinctive actor and I rely on instinct more than anything else but at time I’d come to him and be like “I’m really confused about this scene” and you know I’d vomit out all these types of thoughts that I had and he would tell me to relax.
Poulter went on to speak also about the pressure that comes with the way of filming that resulted in a lot of time sensitivity. They knew if they didn’t get a certain shot it would mean they were going to be back out the next day. He mentioned that he was further impressed with the director after he won the Oscar for Birdman while they were in the process of filming and was undeterred from the task at hand.
The Revenant is out in theaters now.