‘The Revenant’s’ Stunt Man Who Played the Bear Speaks About Filming With DiCaprio

By January 26, 2016
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Quite the headline, wouldn’t you say? I was intrigued when I first stumbled upon the story (via Collider); because the headline there actually made it sound like a comical, SNL type skit they put up on YouTube. Quite the opposite. In fact, there WAS a man in the suit – be it a blue-skinned bear suit that would allow the CGI whiz kids to digitally fill in the massive bear in post. And for that reason – realizing there was a whole process in acting, stunts and digital wizardry behind it all – this story is pretty amazing.

Check out a Tweet from Sidonie Sawyer, via a story done at Global News.

Of course, you do realize, no insurance company would dare insure an actor let alone a movie knowing a real life bear would be mauling one of its most famous, A List actors in history? No amount of training or having a bear raised in captivity would adhere to direction. So when you hire a stuntman, Glenn Ennis, why not put him in a blue suit that can be digitally altered later? Easy, right?

Glenn Ennis has been doing this for over 15 years and it’s here that he will get the most notice. So how does one get called in to play a bear? Here’s snippets from Mr. Ennis’ interview:

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.

This is some serious method acting if you ask me. To come in and play, well, a bear and make it look real and authentic? That is a stretch, even for the most gifted of actors. So major props must be given to Ennis.

For as the article details, Mr. Ennis studied videos of people actually being attacked by bears on YouTube!  Ennis even commented on how bears would play with their victims and that’s what he wanted to capture in The Revenant. I can’t help but think of a toddler playing with their food.

When asked if it was a “painstaking” process to make it 100% authentic:

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.

I can only imagine. And since there was not a single bear on site – no trained bear, no wild bear cut into the scenes, he had to nail the performance. I’m still reeling from the thought of suiting up and “working with Leo” in that capacity.

On that note, he does get in to working with, arguably, the most famous actor working today and whether it was him or Leo’s stunt double:

It was his stunt double who rehearsed most of the time, but he [Leo] stepped in and rehearsed a bit because there were so many parts to this big sequence that had to be learned. You couldn’t chew it in pieces, it had to be shot all at once. Leo was around somewhat, but a lot of my work was with the stunt double until we started shooting.

So Leo then would step in for his close ups. The interviewer than joked about Ennis being in a very enviable position; that “rolling around on the forest floor with Leo” is a dream for many people.

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]

I imagine a lot of people would pay good money to put their face in Leo’s butt. Not awkward at all, right?

I am enjoying these extra special looks at the making of The Revenant. With so many stories from behind the scenes, the brutal winters, the locations and how hard it was on certain actors along with some rumors – with this story and the previous posting of a 45 minute behind the scenes documentaryThe Revenant proves it’s a a fascinating movie worthy of the awards notice.

Make sure you check back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

Mark Reilly
Born a geek a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - Tustin, CA - Reilly is a seasoned writer and producer with over twenty years experience in the film industry. He is the co-host of 'Far, Far Away' here on GeekNation as well as 'Meet the Movie Press' on the Popcorn Talk Network; which airs live every Friday morning at 9am pst. Tweet him at @Reillyaround