Over time, it's become an internet sensation and a tragic series of memes, and the question is coming up again for the 2016 Oscars: Will Leonardo DiCaprio finally capture his elusive Academy Award win? This year, DiCaprio is nominated as best actor for his portrayal of frontiersman Hugh Glass and his story of survival and revenge in The Revenant, and there's plenty of Oscars history — in addition to the grueling physical demands of the shoot — that point to this year being a welcome and much-deserved reward for the versatile actor.
It's a physical role, more than a vocal one. Unlike some of his previous Oscar-nominated roles, DiCaprio's character portrayal in The Revenant is one that's more reliant on his physical and emotional acting rather than on his vocal delivery — he has very few lines throughout the film. It's even more than a conscious choice by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, as this is actually attributed to the bear attack scene in the film because his throat was damaged in the confrontation. In that sense, the character stands as the antithesis of his 2014 Academy Award nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort, with a character who likely said just as much in one of his many profanity-laced tirades than Hugh Glass said in the entire film.
Such a role has caught the attention of the Academy in years past. Tom Hanks was nominated for his lonesome work in Cast Away (Wilson was great, too), and Jean Dujardin won in 2012 for The Artist — a movie that is an ode to the silent films of cinema's past. Additionally, even though Robert Redford's minimalist role in All Is Lost was snubbed by the Oscars last year, the snub was then met with harsh criticism by the actor and media outlets, as he had previously earned nominations for the part at the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards, among others.
DiCaprio's character is more in the vein of Hank and Redford's respective roles, embodying the triumph of the human spirit through a gritty perseverance. After all, DiCaprio's dedication to portraying Hugh Glass is apparent, and at the very least, he damn well looks the part. "DiCaprio is called on to depict the man's desperation, grief and searing anger almost entirely through his eyes and he does it with remarkable depth, turning Glass's endurance into a steadfastness both physical and emotional," Kate Taylor wrote for the Globe and Mail.
The shoot was a "living hell." Though the entire crew of The Revenant endured what many have called the worst experience in their careers and a "living hell," DiCaprio likely suffered the full brunt of these miseries — much of which was voluntary on his part. Along the way, the actor ate raw bison liver, battled hypothermia and slept inside an animal carcass among some of the "most difficult things" he's ever done, according to Yahoo Movies.
"The truth is that I knew what I was getting into," DiCaprio said in an interview with Yahoo. "This was a film that had been floating around for quite some time, but nobody was crazy enough to really take this on, simply because of the logistics of where we needed to shoot and the amount of work and rehearsal that would have to be done to achieve Alejandro and [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's] vision."
Iñárritu's dedication to filming The Revenant almost entirely with natural light also caused the scheduled production to extend an additional five months, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In other words, DiCaprio and the crew persevered through nearly half a year more in the cold reaches of Canada and Argentina.
He'd avoid an unfortunate Oscars record. The Revenant, and the character of Hugh Glass, is DiCaprio's fifth Academy Award nomination for best actor. Of course, DiCaprio's has yet to capture an Oscar win yet, and if he was to fail this year, he'd be approaching an unfortunate milestone. According to Business Insider, only Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton and Glenn Close have had more Oscar acting nominations without a win, with O'Toole leading the pack with eight.
And considering how the Internet reacted in 2014, it would likely amplify even more this Oscars season.
Not to mention, former co-stars are pulling for him, too. "I think you can sort of feel it and I think everyone wants it for him," Titanic co-star Kate Winslet said, according to BBC News. "It's probably going to be Leo's year."
Here's to 2016 being when DiCaprio finally wins an Oscar — he's earned it.