Though most of the screen-time the bear received in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant was spent in the form of a skinned pelt wrapped around the shoulders of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), he did have quite the buzz-worthy performance in a very violent attack on the frontiersman. And though DiCaprio famously suffered through extreme cold and bizarre diets in order to inform his survivalist character, it would be quite risky indeed to expose the Oscar-nominated actor to mauling by an actual wild animal.
Enter stuntman Glenn Ennis. With almost 15 years of stuntwork, Ennis has turned in numerous roles in both the television and feature film landscapes, but the highest-profile role to date may very well be the nameless bear responsible for savaging DiCaprio. Sound glamorous? Well, Ennis talked about shooting the scene at length with Global News, revealing the very practical side of this powerful digital effects sequence.
First of all, let’s get up close and personal with the bear as it appeared during filming:
Stuntman Glenn Ennis was wearing the blue bear suit used in The Revenant when Leo is brutally attacked by the beast pic.twitter.com/AYTaNhRfIe
— Sidonie Sawyer (@sid131313) January 22, 2016
For starters, you might be wondering how a stuntman of Ennis’ experience found himself in a giant blue bear suit.
Glenn Ennis: They had two people from the States doing some of the rehearsing, getting the routine down. One of them had to go to the hospital for exhaustion. The process is picking someone up, throwing them around, turning them, attacking them. Running on your hands and feet for 10 yards is pretty tough for a big guy. It’s non-stop for a full two minutes. Once this guy was taken to the hospital, I got a call from Vancouver asking me if I could come do this.
I learned the routine quickly. They wanted authenticity, someone who moved like a bear. Maybe my acting background helped with it. Because of physical exhaustion, it was impossible for one person to do it exclusively. But I was the number-one bear.
The number-one bear, embodied by Ennis, learned to become the creature by studying videos of people being attacked by actual bears on YouTube; he thanks Charles Darwin for this minor miracle. Ennis commented on the playfulness of bears when mauling their would-be dinner, a trait that was captured in The Revenant.
Would you say there was a painstaking effort to have 100 per cent authenticity?
Absolutely. In rehearsals, I would wear a blue suit with a bear head. Obviously that doesn’t make it into the film, and the CGI guys paint the bear in. Alejandro [G. Iñárritu, the director] was adamant that the blue bear moved just like a real bear would move, and it was essential that it had the same nuances that a bear would have. Even though it was a big Smurf bear, it still had to be as authentic as possible.
There must have been a real bear on set, though, right?
There was no bear ever on set. The closest a bear ever got to set (that we knew of) was at the Calgary Zoo. [Laughs]
Ennis goes on to explain just how grueling the rehearsals and filming process were, but a lot of DiCaprio fans probably think that rolling around in the dirt with the veteran actor sounds like a dream come true. Ennis responds.
You were rolling around on the forest floor with Leo — you realize that’s a dream for many people, right?
[Laughs] I was, about 20 per cent of the time. That’s the funniest thing, if you notice the bear head in the picture, they wanted the bear mouth to be right on his lower back. I was supposed to grab his jacket with my hand to make it look like the bear’s jaws were pulling it. In order to have the bear’s jaw in the small of his back, basically my face was in his butt. My face was in Leo’s butt for a fair bit of time. I can see how that’s someone’s fantasy, but it wasn’t mine! [Laughs]
Remember this quote when DiCaprio attends the Academy Awards, hopefully to thank Ennis, his number-one bear, when he receives his first-ever Oscar.
Make sure to visit Global News for the full interview with Ennis. For more on The Revenant, check out some of our recent coverage below:
- Box Office: ‘The Revenant’ Takes First in Third Frame
- ‘The Revenant’: Watch a 44-Minute Documentary on the Making of the Oscar Contender
- Oscar Nominations: The 5 Biggest Surprises
- ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, ‘Game of Thrones’ Lead 2016 VES Awards Nominations
- 2016 Golden Globe Winners: ‘The Revenant’ Wins Big with Best Picture, Director, Actor
- ‘The Revenant’ Tops ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ at Friday Box Office