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When Leonardo DiCaprio won the best drama film actor Golden Globe for his role in The Revenant, he closed his speech by thanking “all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history.”
The actor’s remarks underscored contributions that Native American castmembers made to the film, which tells the story of Hugh Glass (DiCarpio), a seasoned fur trader who chases the native land’s animal resources for personal profit.
Arthur Redcloud — who plays Glass’ life-saving, bison-eating buddy Hikuc — said The Revenant reveals both Caucasian and Native American motivations for violence and eventually pegs the white characters as the story’s enemy.
“[Hikuc] could’ve killed [Hugh Glass], and I should’ve, but I didn’t. I did the opposite and took the higher road, and treated him with respect, even though I might’ve not known him or liked him,” Redcloud told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he hoped to represent the more benevolent side of Native American tribes and their ancestors onscreen (where they are often shown as an uncivilized, savage-like people).
“He made the playing field seem equal — doesn’t matter our color or race, it’s about humanity and spirits,” Redcloud said of DiCaprio’s Globes remarks on indigenous peoples.”We all should just learn to appreciate and learn from each other. We all have our gifts, and we should be doing this for each other every day — not necessarily sacrifice our lives for each other, but to help each other in the ways we can.”
DiCaprio, a longtime environmental activist, is much more “spiritual” than most realize, added Redcloud.
“I think a lot of people misinterpret his attitude or his integrity,” the actor said. “He’s such a humanitarian, people aren’t aware of his thoughts and feelings on a lot of things. I’m so grateful for the respect he’s given the Native American and First Nations cast — the willingness to learn about who we are and our ways of life. … It speaks for the brotherhood of the journey. He and I, we’re better than friends. We’re family.”
Redcloud nabbed the heartwarming role after attending an open casting call. “My day job, I’m a truck driver — I just deliver gas,” he said. “They were casting three roles and I was just hoping to get something.”
Once casted alongside First Nations actors Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, Grace Dove and Melaw Nakehk’o, the Navajo newbie read Michael Punke’s 2002 novel on which the film is based, researched what life was like in the Rockies in 1823 and learned the Pawnee language.
But creating that storm-weathering shelter out of natural materials was second nature to Redcloud. “My grandfather was a medicine man, and he taught me a lot about that,” he said, thanking the pic’s director Alejandro G. Inarritu for trusting him to spearhead that mostly improvised scene. “[Inarritu’s] research and approach to our beliefs and sacred traditional ways was very respectful. Doing that was a such a gift.”
Watch DiCaprio’s speech below.
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