First Nations ‘The Revenant’ actor ‘choked up’ by DiCaprio speech

By Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

First Nations actor Duane Howard admits he “choked up” when “The Revenant” star Leonardo DiCaprio dedicated his Golden Globe trophy to indigenous communities around the world.

Howard and his friends were watching in Vancouver when DiCaprio took the stage on Sunday to claim the best dramatic film actor award for his role in the 19th century survival epic.

DiCaprio shared the award with “all the First Nations people represented in this film and all the indigenous communities around the world.”

“It is time we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them,” DiCaprio said in his acceptance speech.

“It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”

Howard plays lead Arikara warrior Elk Dog in the drama, which was partly shot in Alberta and British Columbia and features dozens of local actors and crew members.

The 52-year-old called DiCaprio’s speech “really meaningful,” and said he’d like to see more meticulous portrayals of indigenous culture come out of Hollywood.

“When a Hollywood celebrity like that reaches out to the world and acknowledges us First Nations people like that, that means something,” said Howard, born in the Nuu-chah-nulth territory located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“Hollywood’s got to be more open to us, as First Nations people of this land…. More and more of these films have to come out.”

In “The Revenant,” DiCaprio plays fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is left for dead after being attacked by a bear. Desperate to survive, he braves icy waters and an unforgiving wilderness in search of the hunting team that left him behind.

The Canadian cast also includes child actor Isaiah Tootoosis from the Poundmaker First Nation, who plays Hugh’s son, and Grace Dove, as Hugh’s wife.

The film’s visual effects supervisor was the B.C-based Cameron Waldbauer.

“The challenge for us really was the environment we were filming in. It was crazy,” Waldbauer added in a separate interview from Vancouver, where he was preparing to begin work on the third “Maze Runner” film.

“We were in -40 C trying to make a movie and not have all the equipment freeze and people freeze and all that stuff, so it was a very difficult movie to make.”

The effects whiz, who was born in New Westminster, B.C., was in charge of “practical effects” involving actual people and objects. That involved building a large rig with a mechanical horse to simulate a man and horse falling off a cliff.

“It’s an actual guy and a mechanical horse we had on a track,” he said of the spectacular shot.

“The beginning of that shot is basically real. And then he goes down into the tree and then the visual effects take over.”

Waldbauer said director Alejandro Inarritu was a stickler for detail, and that went far beyond visual effects details.

“They had the elders of the local tribe where we were, they were involved, they made sure that they were as accurate as they could be with everything the (actors) were wearing, how they acted, what they did and the difference between the tribes,” he said.

“A lot of times, everyone, directors included, will just kind of gloss over the small details just to hurry up and tell the story. But Alejandro wasn’t interested in that. He just wanted it to be as real as it could possibly be.”

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