'The Revenant' Producer on the Bear Scene That Took on "Myths of Its Own"

The Revenant Bear - H 2016
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Mary Parent spoke with THR about why the film is clicking, the obsession over that bear and why she's happy to be out of the cold.

This story first appeared in a special awards season issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Alejandro G. Inarritu's follow-up to his Oscar-winning Birdman was a grueling, sweeping frontier epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio that is markedly different from anything the Mexican director has done. Mary Parent, 47, a veteran producer and former executive at MGM, boarded The Revenant at the behest of Inarritu. His insistence on filming in real snow and natural light meant a more than yearlong shoot in remote locations in Canada, the U.S. and Argentina, but the gamble paid off with Revenant's dozen Oscar nominations, more than any other film this year, and its worldwide box office of $332 million. Parent spoke with THR about why The Revenant is clicking, the obsession over that bear and why she's happy to be done with winter.

The Revenant has grossed $332 million globally, and the Oscar ceremony hasn't even happened. Are you surprised the film has done so well, considering its tough subject matter?

It's a universal story, it's appealing and it's cinematic. It's also a really ambitious movie, so you just never know. It's great to see it succeeding. It's good for moviemaking. I think it's done this well for a couple of reasons. It's an affirmation of life. On a surface level, we all have varying degrees of struggles and obstacles in our lives, and I think we can relate to having to reach within ourselves and finding that determination and will to push forward. The film asks a lot of powerful and relevant questions in terms of our collective responsibility to one another as human beings and also to the planet that we've been given. Lastly, if you're going to have an enjoyable, visceral adventure, I think the immersive, almost 3D-like experience is a fun roller coaster.

How much does DiCaprio factor into the film's success?

I think Leo has a lot to do with it. I think Tom Hardy has a lot to do with it. I think the whole cast collectively has a lot to do with it. In addition to being one of the best actors alive, Leo has done a tremendous job. He creates these really memorable and iconic characters, and they're all different. Let's face it: Going to the movies — people have a lot of things to do with their time and money, and there really has to be a reason for being [there]. You look at this and think, "This looks different. It looks exciting."

Is this the year we'll finally see DiCaprio win the best actor Oscar?

I hope so. I think he really deserves it. I watched him every day, and I see how hard he worked. For me, the scene where he finds his son dead — there is no dialogue, it's all through his eyes. It's so powerful, and it haunts you through the whole movie until he comes full circle on this journey. He disappeared into the role, and it never felt like I was watching Leo.

Much has been made about the bear in the film and speculation that the animal rapes DiCaprio's character. What do you make of all the hoopla?

You're going to have to answer that question for me. I think because the movie was such a high-profile film, it took on myths of its own. I certainly have been involved in other high-profile films, and there's always some sort of speculation. But this was unlike anything I've seen before, between the bear rape and claims of fleas in Leo's beard. It's just a total head-scratcher. The only conclusion that I came to was that people were talking about the movie and on some level that had to be a good thing.

To see a studio put out a statement saying "It's a mama bear" was pretty crazy.

It's pretty clear she's a female, especially with the two cubs. I guess this was one of those situations where it's better to be talked about than not at all.

You just returned from Australia. What were you doing there?

I was there for a month shooting Kong: Skull Island. It's summertime down there. That's my payback for being in the snow for a year.


Vital Stats

Studio: Fox

Release date: Dec. 25

Worldwide box office: $332 million

Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

Top awards and nomsGlobe drama win; Globe and DGA wins for Inarritu; Globe and SAG wins and Oscar nom for DiCaprio