'The Revenant' Is Based On One Of The Craziest True Stories From The American Frontier

The most hyped film heading into Oscar season hasn't even been released yet. Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu's The Revenant is generating chatter that it could nab a second straight directing Oscar for Iñárritu, and the long-overdue first Academy Award for star Leonardo DiCaprio. But what is The Revenant about? The film's trailers don't give much away other than the expansive and epic nature of the film, the American Frontier setting, and that people breathe heavily a lot in it. Add to that crazy rumors that have come out about the film, like that DiCaprio ate raw bison liver on set (true), that he was raped by a bear (not true), and that the film's cast and crew suffered greatly during the making of the film (possibly true), and you end up with one of the most mysterious big releases in years. So seriously, what is The Revenant about?

The Revenant is actually based on a true story about an American pioneer named Hugh Glass, who's portrayed by DiCaprio in the film. The film's official site gives the synopsis as this:

Deep in the unchartered American wilderness, hunter Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is severely injured and left for dead by a traitorous member of his team, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). With sheer will as his only weapon, Glass must navigate a hostile environment, a brutal winter, and warring tribes in a relentless quest to survive and exact vengeance on Fitzgerald.

So it's essentially a revenge story set during the time of the American Frontier chronicling Glass's journey to find Fitzgerald. Sounds straightforward enough, but what's the real story behind it?

Hugh Glass was a fur trapper and pioneer who lived from 1780 to 1833. The story for which he is most famous, and the one depicted in The Revenant, deals with Glass's fateful fur-trading expedition on the Missouri River in 1823. During the trek, Glass and the other frontiersmen came into conflict with a group of Arikara Indians, and Glass was shot in the leg. He managed to escape with some members of the group, and continued his venture north. Glass was then attacked by a bear, which mauled him to the point where he appeared to be on the verge of death. Glass and two of the men with him, Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter in the film) killed the bear, but Glass was in rough shape. The rest of the expedition moved on, while Fitzgerald and Bridger were ordered to stay with Glass until he died and then catch up.

Instead, the pair dug a grave for Glass, robbed him, and left him. They reported falsely to the others that Glass had died, when in fact they had just left him for dead. Glass eventually regained consciousness, and though he was without weapons or supplies, managed to patch himself up. Over six weeks, he made the grueling 200 mile trek to the nearest settlement (eating raw bison along the way). Once he fully recovered from his injuries, he then set out to find the men who robbed him.

Glass found Bridger first, but forgave him because he was just a teenager (Glass was in his 40s). He then focused on Fitzgerald, and eventually found him after learning that he had enlisted in the U.S. army. Fitzgerald returned Glass's stolen rifle, and Glass refrained from killing him due to the punishment for killing a U.S. soldier.

So that's how it really happened, but the film makes the ordeal look even more dramatic since it's based on the fictional novel by Michael Punke that's in turn based on the story. The film ups the ante by involving a son of Glass at the traitorous scene, making Fitzgerald more sadistic, and seemingly minimizing Bridger's role. However, the film will probably include a lot of truth as well, since Glass's story is so insane it doesn't really need embellishment. Personally, I can't wait to see the epic unfold once it hits all theaters on Jan. 8.

Images: 20th Century Fox; giph