After enduring freezing winters, horse-carcass sleeping bags and a gruesome bear attack, Leonardo DiCaprio has finally won his first Oscar.
Following 20-plus years of disappointments at the Academy Awards, DiCaprio notched a lead actor win for his performance in “The Revenant.” The film, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, follows the early 19th century trapper Hugh Glass as he seeks revenge for his son’s murder and his own abandonment on the frontier.
His long-sought-after win was greeted by a heartfelt standing ovation by the appreciative crowd. DiCaprio seized the moment with a speecH that was both personal and political.
DiCaprio thanked his brother in this endeavor, Tom Hardy, and the cinematic genius of Iñárritu. But he also used his acceptance speech to talk about climate change, explaining that the production had to go to the tip of South America to find enough snow to complete “The Revenant.”
“Climate change is real,” he said. “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take this evening for granted.”
DiCaprio had been nominated four other times before, thrice for lead actor, but it took his grueling role in “The Revenant” to push him over the top.
“Any time you’re recognized it feels good, but especially for a film like this, which has been a different experience,” DiCaprio, 41, told The Times in an interview before his win for the same role at the Golden Globes. “I’ve made no qualms about saying that making this movie is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.”
By any calibration, DiCaprio is one of the Hollywood’s leading movie stars. Most of his films, including “The Revenant,” have been box-office hits and he’s worked with some of the world’s greatest directors, including Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Iñárritu.
DiCaprio, a Los Angeles native, was first nominated as a supporting actor for 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” His role as the troubled young Arnie Grape earned widespread praise, and helped launch his remarkable career.
DiCaprio’s prior Oscar snubs include one of the academy’s most famous. He didn’t get an acting nomination for “Titanic,” which won for best picture and director in 1998 and is still one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
The cast of Best Picture winner “Spotlight” takes a selfie backstage at the 88th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Actress Stacey Dash speaks onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 28, 2016.(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Michael Keaton and the cast and producers of “Spotlight” celebrate after winning the Oscar for best picture.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The production team and cast of Spotlight celebrate the award for best picture.(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, winner of Best Director with Tom Hardy(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Whoopi Goldberg(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Mark Rylance thanks Steven Spielberg before accepting his Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Adam McKay, front, and Charles Randolph with their Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
His other acting nominations include nods for roles in 2004’s “The Aviator,” 2006’s “Blood Diamond” and 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” for which he was also nominated as a producer for best picture.
However, other 2016 awards shows strongly hinted that this would be DiCaprio’s year to finally land atop the Oscars for lead actor. He won the comparable prizes at this year’s Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards.
In the lead actor category this year he beat out Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo,” Matt Damon in “The Martian,” Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.”
Mark Rylance, left, Brie Larson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Alicia Vikander in the winners room.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Songwriter Jimmy Napes, left, and singer Sam Smith won the original song Oscar for “Writing’s on the Wall” for the film “Spectre.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Brie Larson with her Oscar for lead actress for the film “Room.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Alejandro G. Inarritu with his Oscar for directing for the film “The Revenant.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Alicia Vikander won the supporting actress Oscar for her role in “The Danish Girl.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Leonardo DiCaprio with his lead actor Oscar for “The Revenant.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Production designers Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson celebrate winning the production design Oscar for their work on “Mad Max: Fury Road.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Ennio Morricone, 87, won the Oscar for original score for “The Hateful Eight.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes won the Oscar for foreign language film for “Son of Saul.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Mark Rylance displays his Academy Award for his supporting role in “Bridge of Spies.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Directors James Gay-Rees, left, and Asif Kapadia take home an Academy Award for their documentary feature “Amy” about late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy holds her Oscar for documentary short subject. Her winning film, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” is about honor killings in Pakistan.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Gabriel Osorio, left, and Pato Escala win the Academy Award for animated short film for their film “Bear Story.” Their win is the first win for their country, Chile.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Emmanuel Lubezki wins the Academy Award for cinematography for this work in “The Revenant.” He is photographed with the presenter of the award, actress Rachel McAdams.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
“Inside Out” producer Jonas Rivera, left, and director Pete Docter take home the Oscar for animated feature.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Margaret Sixel holds her Oscar for film editing for her work in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The winning visual effects team for “Ex Machina,” from left, Mark Ardington, Paul Norris, Sara Bennett and Andrew Whitehurst.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Winning “Mad Max: Fury Road” sound editors Mark Mangini, left, and David White, right, pose with actor Chris Evans, who presented the award.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” makeup and hairstyling winners Damian Martin, second from left, Lesley Vanderwalt and Elka Wardega stand with the awards presenters, actors Margot Robbie and Jared Leto.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” costume designer Jenny Beavan holds her Academy Award. She is photographed with Cate Blanchett, who presented the award.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
“The Big Short’s” writers Adam McKay, left, and writer Charles Randolph win the adapted screenplay category. McKay also directed the film.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
“Spotlight” writers Josh Singer, left, and Tom McCarthy win for original screenplay. McCarthy also directed.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
The cast and crew of “The Revenant” endured a notably difficult shoot, using only natural light in frigid settings in Canada and South America.
DiCaprio also had the populist wind at his back. In the run-up to the Oscars, the hashtag "#prayforleo” emerged as a trend, where fans created images of his famous roles with Oscar statues edited in as costars.