Arthur Redcloud of Colleyville absorbed enough in his role in The Revenant that it gave him appreciation for his real-life job as a fuel delivery driver.
Regarding the movie, Redcloud said director Alejandro González Iñárritu went out of his way to accurately portray the brutal conditions that fur trappers and American Indians endured merely to survive in the 1820s. In real-life, Redcloud makes the corelation that we've been spoiled by easy access to basic necessities, that anything is just a dash away to the nearest 7-Eleven or QuikTrip where he delivers gasoline.
"In the movie, you look back at what happened and how those ancestors of ours had learned to take what they could in the wilderness," he said. "We really have it easy."
RedCloud, 43, is taking it easy after having completed his biggest role to date in The Revenant. In the movie, he plays Hikuc, a Pawnee tribesman who helps frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) heal from wounds that he sustained when he was mauled by a bear. The movie tracks Glass' survival and spiritual awakening.
In a way, it fits the track that Redcloud, a member of the Navajo tribe, has made in his career. He's a native of Arizona, attended Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., came to Texas to work in law enforcement and now lives in Colleyville, wedging in minor acting gigs around driving a fuel truck. Months ago, he answered a casting call for The Revenant, made it and kept getting callbacks for additional scenes.
"To go from where I started to where I am now is completely impossible," he said. "You usually have to get a small part on a major film and then work your way to a huge major role, especially working with a director like that, as well as an actor like Mr. DiCaprio."
On NBC's Today Show, DiCaprio credited Redcloud for providing him the incentive to eat a real bison liver in a scene.
"He was eating raw bison flesh the entire day during rehearsal," DiCaprio said of Redcloud. "And they gave me this gelatinous sort of red pancake to eat, and it just didn't look real, It didn't look authentic to me. I wanted to get the real thing. And it was this giant liver that is incredibly disgusting."
Stephen Mirrione, the film's editor and an Academy Award winner, told Below the Line that Redcloud's personal story about becoming a medicine man "reverberated with the themes of the movie. That is one example of the passion people brought."
Redcloud plans to attend a New York premiere of the movie on Thursday then hop a flight back to Texas for a 7 p.m. showing in Waxahachie with fellow re-enactors and area artists. On Friday, he plans to greet people at the AMC Grapevine Mills 30 for the 8:10 p.m. showing.
Redcloud made time to answer questions about The Reverant and his role.
Q: Stories have been told about the lengths that Iñárritu, an Academy Award-winning director, took to bring realism to his story, from the rugged conditions of shooting in frigid parts of Calgary and Argentina to crew turnover. How tough was it for the actors and production crew?
A: "People can say what they want to say about how it was produced, directed or where it was even shot. But, c'mon. Do you want fake or do you want real? And especially when it comes to our people. I'm not just talking about Native Americans. I'm talking First Nations as well. I'm talking about all indigenous peoples. It was freezing cold, but yeah, they had such a great cast and crew and warmed up when they could."
Q: How did the conditions impact you?
A: "It's my breakout film, and I was just going to suck it up and just do it. It was not just cold or freezing, it was freezing cold. But I'm so glad I did it. It has to be real and no kind of fake cold. My whole concentration was just trying to get these scenes right, down and good. And I did them so well that they kept calling me back for more even after the script was written, and even after the film was written."
Q: Hikuc and his people were attacked and is a lone survivor, just as Glass. How does that dynamic work with DiCaprio's character?
A: "Glass and my character go on a journey from being potential enemies to being brothers, and we went on that journey together."
Q: What did you take from your experience working with Iñárritu?
A: "If you've seen his work, like Birdman, you'll see the realism, and the depth of meaning. Alejandro is not just trying to tell the story or show the story. I think he's trying to correct the story of people's interpretation of what they've learned from books on that era. And the filmographer, Emanuel Lubezki, just did a work of art."
Q: Iñárritu brought in a historian and anthropologist to authentically portray the Arikara culture. As a person of American Indian descent who grew up on a Navajo reservation, did Iñárritu get it right when it comes to presentation of indigenous peoples in that region?
A: "I've seen the research. I went to their offices. They had endless things to research, from hair to regalia, what they had and what they didn't have. They tried to get these things right. I couldn't have asked for a better director as well as a better actor, especially for the heart that Leo DiCaprio has for indigenous people. Spirituality, I've learned so much from them that I'm still trying to chew on it all. It was so much so fast. Even if it was a year, I learned a lot from Tom Hardy, to Leo, to Will Poulter, to Josh Burge to Forrest Goodluck to Domhnall Gleeson. We all gave to each other and took things from each other every day. It involved all of us at the same time, or some of us in different moments."
Q: How do you see your acting career evolving from this movie?
A: "Leo said it best: 'This will be the best scene you'll ever do, bottom line. You'll never do something this big again.' And I think he's right. I hope it takes off, but I still might do some fun stuff on the side. You need to remember where you started out from. I'm just a driver who just delivers gas and does his job but leans on the Creator to lead him to most of the work."