Leonardo DiCaprio Wins First Oscar, Says "Climate Change Is Real"

"Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It's the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together," said DiCaprio, who earned best actor honors for 'The Revenant' on Sunday night.

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant, and he delivered a powerful message about climate change while accepting his award on Sunday night.

"Making The Revenant was about man's relationship to the natural world, a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow," he said of filming The Revenant in Argentina. "Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It's the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating."

DiCaprio continued: "We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this. For our children's children and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed, I thank you all for this amazing award tonight.

"Let us not take this planet for granted," he concluded. "I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so much."

DiCaprio, whose speech garnered cheers from the Hollywood audience, also thanked the "tireless efforts" of his cast and crew, including his "brother in this endeavor," Tom Hardy, saying, "Your fierce talent onscreen can only be surpassed by your friendship offscreen." He then thanked director Alejandro G. Inarritu: "To Mr. Alejandro Inarritu — as the history of cinema unfolds, you have forged your way into history these past two years. What an unbelievable talent you are."

Beating out Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), DiCaprio's Oscar win has been long awaited. He has been nominated four times previously — for The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, The Aviator and What's Eating Gilbert Grape — but consistently came up empty-handed.

The Revenant was nominated in 12 categories, including best picture and best director, which Inarritu won. While thanking his "talented and crazy" cast and crew, the filmmaker spoke directly to DiCaprio while accepting his award. "Leo, you are The Revenant," he said. "Thank you for giving your soul, your art, your life."

In the film, DiCaprio plays a 19th century fur trapper who suffers a violent bear attack and is left for dead. Though the actor has often gone to extremes for roles (The Wolf of Wall Street, Aviator and Shutter Island, to name a few), he has said The Revenant's attack sequences involved "some of the more difficult things I've ever had to do in my career.

“Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly,” he has said of the film, which had him eating raw bison so audiences could see his "instinctive reaction" onscreen. “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.”

The shoot has been called "a living hell," but the actor has said he has no regrets. "I knew what I was getting into," said DiCaprio.

Backstage, when asked what he loves most about being a storyteller, the actor says telling stories like The Revenant has been a dream of his since he was 4 years old.

"I grew up in East Los Angeles," he said. "I was very close to the Hollywood studio system. But I felt detached from it my whole life. And to have had parents that have allowed me to be a part of this industry, to take me on auditions every day after school, and to tell stories like this has been my dream ever since I was 4 years old."

He then continued to praise Inarritu for a filmmaking journey that he says he will always remember: "This film to me was exemplary in the sense that I got to work with a director, and all the things we spoke about off camera during the making of this movie transferred their way on screen. This was true storytelling. We really got to have a collaborative experience together, and this was a journey that I'll never forget with Alejandro. It took up, you know, such a large portion of our lives, but as a result, we have a great film to look back on for years to come."

When asked about how it feels to hold his first Oscar, DiCaprio stressed how grateful he feels for the "surreal" night, but remained focused on the topic of climate change.

"I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for what happened tonight," he said. "But I feel there is a ticking clock out there. There's a sense of urgency that we all must do something proactive about this issue. And certainly with this upcoming election, the truth is this: If you have do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths and you will be on the wrong side of history."

Earlier on the red carpet, DiCaprio, who brought his mom as his date, called the night bittersweet. "After years and years of hard work, this is the end of it all," he said.

He also delighted Titanic fans by walking the carpet with fellow nominee Kate Winslet (the Steve Jobs star lost out to Alicia Vikander for best supporting actress), who later cheered for her longtime friend with tears in her eyes as he gave his acceptance speech.

The 88th Annual Academy Awards were hosted by Chris Rock and aired on ABC.

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