Leonardo DiCaprio ties his work in ‘The Revenant’ to a greater cause -- fighting climate change

Leonardo DiCaprio won a lead actor Oscar for his work in "The Revenant."

Leonardo DiCaprio won a lead actor Oscar for his work in “The Revenant.”

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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.


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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.”

After many nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins an Oscar for his role in “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.

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“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.

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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.


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.”

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.


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