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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Getting mauled by a grizzly bear usually spells a painful death, but for one man, a savage bear attack is the catalyst for a quest fueled by revenge, in a sweeping saga that uncovers man's willpower to survive against all odds.
"The Revenant," out in limited U.S. theaters on Christmas Day, follows the story of Pioneer-era fur trapper Hugh Glass, who was mauled in a grizzly bear attack and left for dead by his companions.
Glass excruciatingly travels across vast, primitive landscapes in pursuit of retribution against the men who abandoned him, with scenes that do not shy away from the gruesome reality of his circumstances.
"It's a very primal, almost Biblical story of a man surviving in nature, the will to live, the perseverance of the human spirit, what we draw upon to survive against all odds," actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Glass, told Reuters.
Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu, who won the best picture Oscar this year for his intricately choreographed showbiz satire "Birdman," said he wanted to explore the cost of revenge in "The Revenant."
"Revenge is hollow - if even succeeding in revenge brings you back what you lost or what you're looking for and if that's the meaning of life, if you accomplish it, then what is the meaning of life?" he said.
The film is likely to garner DiCaprio his fifth best actor Oscar nomination.
It is a stark difference from his last Oscar-nominated role as the fast-talking Jordan Belfort in 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street," as Glass is rendered voiceless for much of the film after his attack.
"(DiCaprio) doesn't need words to be great, he's just very great," said co-star Domhnall Gleeson.
The making of "The Revenant" is fast becoming a story in itself, from Inarritu's quest to shoot only in natural light in real snow-covered landscapes to DiCaprio telling media he had slept in animal carcasses during filming.
"That was at first a little bit of a struggle for some of us, but then it just became a matter of trust in Alejandro's vision," he said of the arduous shoot. "Once we had that, we started making some pretty powerful sequences in this movie."
For Tom Hardy, who plays the ruthless, unhinged John Fitzgerald, the hardest challenge was "enduring focus over a long period of time on very small but complicated beats."
"The whole thing was a bit mind-altering," he said.
Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Diane Craft