Where Does 'The Revenant' Take Place? The Stark Setting Is In The Heart Of The American Wilderness
The visuals in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Oscar-nominated film are absolutely incredible, and as you watch the film in preparation for the 2016 Oscars, you'd be forgiven for wondering where The Revenant is supposed to take place. Although the The Revenant was mostly filmed in an extensive area near Calgary in Alberta, Canada, its remote filming locations also included a scene shot in the neighboring state of Montana as well as — for lack of snow — the southern tip of South America in Argentina. Such is the illusion of Hollywood; it's hard to imagine the real-life fur trapper and frontiersman John Glass, much less his Hollywood counterpart Leonardo DiCaprio, screaming and struggling through Patagonia. Yet, that's how this illusion of the film's actual setting came to be: Montana and South Dakota.
As the The Revenant 's script was written by Iñárritu and Mark.L. Smith, based in part on Michael Punke's historical novel and inspired by the experiences of Glass in Montana and South Dakota in 1823, it also chronicles a fascinating time in history before all orginal 50 states were formed into what we know as the United States of America. It was a time when lucrative fur trapping was extending into the Western territories and required the true grit and entrepreneurial bravery of men like Glass, who weren't above sleeping in animal carcasses to stay warm in winter, and who weren't afraid of intruding into hostile territory.
The Revenant 's plot takes its characters into the wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase. In case you forgot history class, that's a huge swath of land across the U.S. and Canada that includes Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska and portions of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Louisiana and Colorado. It was huge.
By filming in Calgary, the production crew obviously got Canada portions right, but the rest is all Hollywood magic.
In the film, after Glass and a third of the original company narrowly escape an ambush by Arikara Native Americans, Glass makes the decision to abandon their raft and begin the journey back to Fort Kiowa on foot. Since so much action revolves around getting back to Fort Kiowa, as well as intrigue when Glass manages to return, it's worth knowing that Fort Kiowa was an actual place originally named Fort Lookout, which was a 19th-century American Fur Trading post in South Dakota. Unfortunately, Revenant fans won't be able to visit Fort Kiowa as it was abandoned in the 1840s, and later flooded.
However, fans can still visit the location of the infamous scene where Glass stumbles upon and is badly mauled by a grizzly bear wildly defending her cubs if you're feeling masochistic and a little creepy. According to the Telegraph, while no eyewitness account exists, The Revenant's true story reveals that it happened in 1823, five months after Glass joined a South Dakota fur-trapping expedition funded by Major Andrew Henry and William Henry Ashley. By that account, the horrific mauling took place near the banks of the Grand River when Glass unexpectedly came upon the grizzly bear and her two cubs. (On second thought, don't visit this place. It'd be weird. And possibly dangerous.)
Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (2)