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'Revenant' director calls Leonardo DiCaprio bear-rape controversy a 'crazy mad comedy'

It's the most head-shaking story to hit the Internet this week, and this has been a week that included Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary: How exactly did people come to believe Leonardo DiCaprio's character was raped by a bear in his new movie, "The Revenant"?

If such traction is mystifying to us regular folk, it’s equally bizarre to Alejandro Inarritu. Which is notable, as he’s the director of "The Revenant."

"It's almost a 'Saturday Night Live' skit. It's fantastic," the director said in an interview this week shortly after the story gained momentum.

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Inarritu, who is known to reporters for being savvy about the media, was (mostly) laughing even as he offered a larger media critique.

"I find it hilarious, and pathetic in a way. You have one guy in a garage inventing something that’s then shared by somebody else. And then a newspaper acknowledges it as news, and then it triggers papers around the world," said the Mexican-born director, who won an Oscar last year for “Birdman.” "What's unbelievable is the validation. When I first saw it I thought it was a joke. But then it gets validation, and the studio actually has to release a statement that there was no bear rape. It's like a crazy mad comedy."

A quick recap, if you've fallen behind on details of rumored forced bestiality on the big screen.

The story began with a column about the late December release, a 19th-century drama centering on DiCaprio's fur trapper Hugh Glass after he's savagely attacked by a bear. The animal seems to be protecting her cubs and wants to hurt Glass, but that's about it. Yet the entertainment columnist Roger Friedman, in describing the movie, noted "that the bear flips Glass over on his belly and molests him – dry humps him actually – as he nearly devours him."

It's unclear to what extent Friedman meant to suggest a sexual assault. He does seem to think the above is a positive, praising the scene. In any event, it soon morphed into this on the Drudge Report.

"DICAPRIO RAPED BY BEAR IN FOX MOVIE"

"The new movie 'Revenant' features a shocking scene of a wild bear raping Leo DiCaprio! The explicit moment from Oscar winning director Alejandro Inarritu has caused maximum controversy in early screenings. Some in the audience escaped to the exits when the Wolf of Wall Street met the Grizzly of Yellowstone."

Also, "He is raped -- twice!"

As the story picked up heat, the studio did indeed release a statement. “There is clearly no rape scene with a bear," a spokesperson said to Entertainment Weekly, noting that the bear was female and doing what bears do in protecting their cubs.

(I've seen the film. It's a visceral mauling. it's obviously not sexual, and I, like writers at many outlets and Inarritu himself, thought this was a put-on when I first read it.)

The director was still puzzling out how it happened. “I don’t know who this guy is. I guess he has five minutes of fame now.”

Asked about Inarritu’s comments, Friedman said he thought the flap had gotten totally out of hand, starting with the Drudge item. “It was just a turn of phrase. I don't think it was a rape,” the columnist said when reached by The Times.

He continued, “The point of my piece was to say how well he adapted the book. I think Inarritu  is a great filmmaker who does these amazing things in his film. I was surprised the story took off the way it did.”

The director said he ultimately believed it was a system more than any individual writer that was responsible for the story proliferating in any event. "In the 140-character world it doesn't matter if it's true. There's no complexity or conversation. Just certainties. It’s the same with politics. Everybody is so certain."

He added, "There have been a lot of stories about this movie that haven't been true." He laughed. "Leo's beard had fleas, that was one that went all around the world. We just need Trump to say the raping bear was Mexican and we'll be done."

All this distracts from the fact that the bear scene is one of eye-popping cinematic power of the kind rarely seen even in big-budget movies. The bear comes at Glass from numerous angles, and there’s an unusually tangible and close-up quality to the attack that is likely to have viewers gripping their armrests.

So there is a head-scratcher, but not the one Drudge describes. It’s this: How the heck did Inarritu shoot this thing? Was there any CG? How much of it was a real person, or even two people, inside a suit? How much footage of a real bear was cut in?

The director said he would eventually explain it but “not at this point in the [release] process. It would ruin the spectacular cinema I was trying to accomplish. I'll say only that it's a combination of using the tools available to us." 

Then, circling back to the matter at hand, he added, "It was not a rape. It was a pure making love of cinema."

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

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In 'Birdman,' Inarritu takes his doubts and lets them fly

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