The Revenant, the Oscar-nominated revenge Western about Hugh Glass, a 19th-century wilderness guide and fur trader left for dead by his own men, has been called the toughest shoot in movie history. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu hauled the production team from Canada to Argentina subjecting his seemingly expendable film crew to hypothermia on several occasions. Was Leonardo DiCaprio a wimp to complain about altitude, avalanches and churning river rapids? Visit the film scenes and decide for yourself.
UPPER SQUAMISH VALLEY (BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA)
Look out for bears when you venture into the Derringer Forest in the Upper Squamish Valley, north of Vancouver. It’s where Glass (DiCaprio’s character) was mauled by a grizzly and then carried on a stretcher across nearby Shovelnose Creek.
While the sites are only accessible by remote logging roads, you can start your journey in comfort at Sunwolf, a remote 5-acre property with restored historic logger cabins in the small community of Brackendale. Sunwolf offers rafting trips and eagle watching down the Cheakamus River, where thousands of bald eagles make their winter home.
DRUMHELLER (ALBERTA, CANADA)
The wide-open badlands east of Calgary are known for dinosaur fossils, but they’re also where Tom Hardy’s character, Fitzgerald (who we hope never runs a hospice), sees a meteor shooting across the sky. You can get in some nice sky watching along with a massage when you bed down at the eight-room Heartwood Inn and Spa in the tiny town of Drumheller, considered the dinosaur capital of the world.
KANANASKIS COUNTRY (ALBERTA, CANADA)
Much of the film was shot in this park system west of Calgary, locally known as K-Country. And while the snow-covered valleys that Glass dragged himself across look remote, don’t be fooled. The area has some sweet places to stay.
One of the toughest shoots was in the Fortress Mountain ski area, where the crew hauled horses and a crane to an 8,000-foot peak, and dropped dynamite from an aircraft to set off an avalanche. The funky ski resort offers Snowcat skiing to groups of just 14, who can swoosh to their delight through 3,300 acres.
You’ll start wondering about spoiled actors when you check into the luxurious all-inclusive Mount Engadine Lodge west of Calgary. The river-braided meadow near the off-the-grid resort should look familiar from the film. The inn offers guests wildlife encounters. We suggest you avoid the bears.
Nearby filming sites include Morley, a town in the Stoney First Nations Reserve. This is where arrows flew in the battle between the trappers and Indians, along with a gravel pit at Spray Valley Provincial Park near the town of Canmore. That’s where architects constructed a replica of the frontier Fort Kiowa, which was torn down after filming.
Trust us. No one around here has to dine on raw bison liver, as Leonardo famously did. The popular Crazyweed Kitchen in Canmore serves everything from pizza to Alberta strip loin.
KOOTENAI FALLS (MONTANA)
When Leonardo crossed paths with hostile Native Americans, his only choice was to go for a swim. You’ll find the spot on the Kootenai River between Kalispell and Libby, where there’s a cool view from a swinging bridge. But don’t try to re-create the epic waterpark ride down the falls, the largest undammed cascade in the state. And forget about spending the night camped out inside a dead horse. Instead, book a room at the century-old Kalispell Grand Hotel.
The filming ran into bad luck when snow started melting early in Canada. No problem if you’ve got a Hollywood budget. Iñárritu just flew the crew to an equally remote location where winter was just gearing up. Nicknamed the “End of the World,” Ushuaia is a resort town on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America. The long-awaited fight between Glass and Fitzgerald occurred along the Olivia River near the national highway Route 3. In between death throes, the actors stayed at the Arakur eco-luxury hotel on an outcrop high above the city. A heated pool and hot tubs with panoramic views awaited them at day’s end. While you’re in the neighbourhood, make sure to book a trip through the Beagle Channel around the southern tip of South America.