Will Poulter: It’s an intense watch, yeah, that’s for sure. Did you guys feel like- because the run time is two hours 37 [minutes]- did it feel that long?
Roundtable: It felt long but in a good way. Like some movies that are two and a half hours just fly by but this one paced the way it was felt really good, like it fit the scale of the film.
Roundtable: Well, first off, how did this part come to you?
Will Poulter: I read the script probably… five months prior to shooting, or at least the start of the rehearsal. And there was a lot of excitement around it for various reasons, you know with Leo [DiCaprio] and Tom [Hardy] attached and Alejandro [Iñárritu] set to direct. As far as I know the script had been around for several years but hadn’t been made because it was such a big undertaking and the task of making it was so difficult and there were few people who were talented and/or crazy enough to attempt it. What first struck me was how emotionally engaging it was on the page. I mean, even just from reading it I could the sort of intensity you were talking about, it was visceral on paper you know. And in my mind there were no doubts that I wanted to be involved- with Alejandro involved and this sort of cast it can only get better from here. And I certainly certainly wanted to be involved and I sent in a tape and my tape was ok, I wasn’t super happy with it, but I was lucky enough to get a meeting with Alejandro in London and we just had a chat and I was immediately struck by what a compassionate and intelligent man he is and when I got the role I was just really excited and keen to get started.
Roundtable: You mentioned the difficulty of the undertaking- what was it like filming in such remote, inhospitable locations?
Will Poulter: I think we were lucky to shoot it in such inhospitable conditions because it reduced the acting challenge, in a way. There was less to act because in most situations we are very cold and very tired and the terrain really is tough and the gear is heavy. So all of that helped us I think with the performance side of things. And it was really cool to have the environment be so natural not fabricated in any way. Not having to interact with- I didn’t have to interact with any CGI, ever. Other than pointing out the cubs, post-bear attack, I didn’t interact with any CGI whatsoever. That’s a really rare opportunity I think these days. So it was like taking part in the filmmaking process of a bygone era, like the film stylings of old where you would shoot on location with natural light and all real weather elements. And I think that was totally necessary because you wouldn’t get that visceral experience we’re talking about in a studio with a green screen and a wind blower, it just wouldn’t have been the same.
Roundtable: It was obviously a very physically demanding film from what I saw and what you’re talking about- was there any kind of preparation that went into the role before you went out there?
Will Poulter: There was some initial weight-loss stuff and that was something that developed throughout the film because by the end I had to lose quite a lot of weight. There was some bootcamping, where we familiarized ourselves with weapons and the sort of basic tools they would use for survival, and that was fun. But really the best preparation was the rehearsals we did that occurred months before we started shooting.
Roundtable: So you mentioned the shooting with natural light- what’s that like compared to shooting with [artificial] lights?
Will Poulter: It really does redefine the whole film-making process for everyone. Rather than using electricity to light each individual frame and separate and compartmentalize the scene into different moments which you can do over and over again and make adjustments, we were operating in a very small window of time where we would actually be shooting. So that meant rehearsing all day long up until this point and then perform almost a like a live piece of theatre. And every single movement from where you’re standing in the scene to the angle of your head turn to the timing of you picking up a prop like every single thing had to be meticulously planned because there was no “Well we’ll get that from another angle” or “We’ll cut that together with another bit” or “We can adjust the light so you can do that…” I mean, the light was the sun or the moon, so there was no adjusting to that. We adjusted to nature.
Roundtable: The way that film was shot, because it sounds like it would add a lot more pressure to you and all the other actors because, since you were using natural lighting stuff had to be shot at a certain time of day, and then if people kept messing up their lines or their timing you might have to wait until another day.
Will Poulter: Yeah, it did absolutely add a certain amount of pressure. And I think we did come up against a couple of scenarios where we had such a limited window of time where it would be like we’re on take two or three and be like “We have maybe… one or two takes left and if we don’t get it we’re coming back tomorrow, or we’re coming back on Monday [if it’s the weekend] and this is gonna push the shoot back”. So those pressures were there but for the most part we got them. I think there was one day where we had to come back and finish something off… or maybe that’s me being really forgetful. There’s one big scene that sticks out for that reason. But it did add in a certain amount of pressure, but it gave us a focus too, it gave us fuel and more of a target to aim at even if the target was smaller.
Roundtable: Did Alejandro was his Oscar [for Birdman] while you guys were shooting?
Will Poulter: Yes. You know it didn’t really change anything, it didn’t change anything in him, at least publicly that he expressed. It really just meant a long weekend for us and that was pretty much it. He came back to work an Oscar winner but we already knew how talented he was and how great Birdman was and it was great to see him win and get what we felt he deserved, but he was still totally focused and immersed in The Revenant. Alejandro has been working really hard the last few years on Birdman and on this and he probably already has his next project planned out. He’s a force of nature- pun intended.
Roundtable: Do you think you would to be in other movies where you were in these remote locations? Did you enjoy doing that or was it just really hard?
Will Poulter: No I did, I found it a really great experience. Now don’t get me wrong, after eight months its tough and it takes its toll. But I did just because it made the process easier from an acting perspective. As much as his approach is difficult, at least from an emotional perspective, it feels real and there’s less to invent. It’s such an experience, such a treat to be able to work in such real conditions. At times when the camera was wider you’re in these huge expanses of wilderness and you can’t even see the camera but you’re just free to act, that’s awesome. For as many times as it’s like THIS close there are times when it was miles away and that was just great.