Thursday, July 30, 2015



Clifford Lee Burton was born at 9:38 pm, on February 10th 1962, to Jan and Ray Burton. Ray was a native of Tennessee, and worked as an Assistant Highway Engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jan was a native of California. She worked for the Castro Valley school district. There she taught students with disabilities. Cliff had two older siblings, his brother Scott and sister Connie.

As a youngster, Cliff played Little League baseball for the Castro Valley Auto House team. He would go on to Earl Warren Junior High, and then to Castro Valley High School. During high school and junior college, Cliff worked at an equipment rental yard in Castro Valley, called Castro Valley Rentals.

Cliff graduated from Castro Valley High in 1980. After High School he went on to Trauma, a prominent Bay Area band noted for its impressive showmanship. Amidst the glamour and the theatrics of his fellow band members, Cliff was the one who stood out the most. Usually clad in bell bottoms, Cliff's on stage presence was marked by his constant head banging and his wild, free flying red hair. He did record some demos with Trauma. One of those songs "Such A Shame", can be found on the Metal Blade Records compilation album, Metal Massacre 2. While Cliff's bass is prominent throughout the song, it fails to showcase his unique trademark style.

It wasn't long until a very young Metallica got wind of this upcoming bass player. Drummer Lars Ulrich and singer/rhythm guitarist, James Hetfield sought after Cliff at one of Trauma's gigs. I think Dave Marrs, Metallicas first roadie, described it best. "I could just see them go, 'Oh my God! Look at that guy!' The thing that struck them the most was that while you see lead guitar-playing, here you had a guy playing lead bass! They thought that was great." After many months of pleas and phone calls, Cliff agreed to join Metallica. However, he would only join if the band would relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area. They agreed.

Replacing Ron Mcgovney on bass guitar, Cliff brought his own creative spark to Metallica. If you we're lucky enough to see Metallica back in those days, you were probably treated to one of Cliff's rather brilliant bass solos. Cliff played the bass guitar like no one ever had before. His solos drew on many styles, with odd jazz timings and psychedelic melodies. However, mere noise it was not. His solos we're superbly executed, with much feeling and finesse. A good example can be found on Metallicas debut, "Kill 'Em All". Entitled, "(Anesthesia)-Pulling Teeth". More examples can be found on numerous bootleg releases.

Cliff contributed largely in the song writing department of Metallica. His first contributions appeared in 1984 on "Ride The Lightning". One of the highlights of R.T.L. is the last track, "The Call Of Ktulu." An instrumental that displays Cliff's "lead bass" approach. Another highlight is the crowd pleaser, "For Whom The Bell Tolls." A great example of Cliff's melodic lead playing and use of distortion, can be heard in the songs introduction

1986 ushered in the release of the groundbreaking, Master Of Puppets album. Abounding in classical influences, it was their most solid effort to date. Cliff's bass lines, as if holding it all together, were even more intricate and prominent. As is the case in Orion, the album's 7th track, where Cliff's solo is hauntingly beautiful. Orion was largely Cliff's composition. But the most standout cut was the title track Master Of Puppets. Which, as Cliff stated in a 1986 interview, was his favorite Metallica song to date. M.O.P. pushed the band over the top. Even with the huge success of the album, Cliff never lost his highly personable on and off stage presence.

1986 was also a very eventful year for Metallica. It saw the release of their 3rd album, they did a US tour with veteran rocker Ozzy Ozbourne, and James Hetfield broke his left arm. After touring the US, they headed over to Europe. On September 26th, Metallica played in Stockholm, Sweden. It was an especially great night for the band. It was the first time James resumed his rhythm guitar duties in months. That night along with a great bass solo, Cliff delivered a very melodic, and stirring version of the Star Spangled Banner. It seemed nothing could stop the mighty Metallica machine.

Metallica was en route on a road between Stockholm and Copenhagen, to their next gig that was scheduled for September 27th, 1986. Earlier that night the band drew cards for the assignment of the bunks on the tour bus. As fate would have it, Cliff drew the ace of spades and chooses Kirk Hammett's bunk. Around dawn, the bus driver lost control of the bus and overcorrects with the steering wheel to get back on the road. The bus begins to skid out of control and rolls several times before coming to a halt. Cliff was ejected and pinned underneath. The band disembarks to find Cliff motionless. Later a crane was brought to the scene to lift up the bus, the band hoped Cliff could be saved. However, after lifting the bus up, it slipped back down. According to Mick Hughes, Metallica's sound engineer, no one was sure if Cliff was still alive at that point.

The "Report Of The Death Of An American Citizen Abroad" lists the cause of death as "compressio thoracis cum contusio pulm", attested by Dr. Anders Ottoson, licensed physician. The bus driver claimed that he hit a "patch of black ice". James Hetfield has since stated the infamous black ice was never found. The police report stated the air temperature at the scene was 37 degrees. However, there was no mention of ice the road. Cliff's passport, E 159240, was cancelled and returned to his parents.

His body was flown back to the United States. His funeral was held on October 7th, 1986 at Chapel Of The Valley in his hometown of Castro Valley, CA. He was cremated, and his ashes were spread at a place where he spent a lot of time at, the Maxwell Ranch. One of those in attendance was his friend, Dave DiDonato. This is his account of the scene. "We (several people and family) stood in a large circle with Cliff's ashes in the center. Each of us walked into the center and took a handful of him and said what we had to say... Then he was cast onto the Earth, in a place he loved very much."

At this point, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett could not be considered a band. They even refused to be called so. However, they were determined to do right by their friend. In an interview from February 8th, 1987, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, put it this way. "Right after the accident happened, we individually decided that, the best way to get rid of all our frustrations, would be to hit the road and get all the anxiety and frustrations out on stage, where they should go. They should go toward a positive thing like that. We were very traumatized, and felt a lot of emotional distraught over the situation. "

"The worst thing we could do is just sit in our room and sulk over the matter and wallow in our pity. The more you think about it, the deeper you sink. We each thought individually, we have to keep on going, we have to work because it wouldn't be fair to Cliff to just stop. Also if he were alive for some reason or another and like y'know he couldn't play bass, he wouldn't tell us to stop. That's the way he would've felt. He would've wanted us to go on." — Metallica World

"When a man lies he murders"
"Some part of the world"
"These are the pale deaths"
"Which men miscall their lives"
"All this I cannot bear"
"To witness any longer"
"Cannot the kingdom of salvation"
"Take me home?" — 
To Live Is To Die

Metallica Bassist Cliff Burton Dies in a Bus Accident — Ultimate Classic Rock

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THE 33 (2015) -starring- Antonio Banderas & Co. | Directed by Patricia Riggen

THE 33 -starring- Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond, Phillips Mario, Casas Adriana, Barraza Kate del Castillo, Cote de Pablo, Bob Gunton & Gabriel Byrne | Directed by Patricia Riggen

In 2010, the eyes of the world turned to Chile, where 33 miners had been buried alive by the catastrophic explosion and collapse of a 100-year-old gold and copper mine. Over the next 69 days, an international team worked night and day in a desperate attempt to rescue the trapped men as their families and friends, as well as millions of people globally, waited and watched anxiously for any sign of hope. But 200 stories beneath the surface, in the suffocating heat and with tensions rising, provisions—and time—were quickly running out.

A story of resilience, personal transformation and triumph of the human spirit, the film takes us to the Earth’s darkest depths, revealing the psyches of the men trapped in the mine, and depicting the courage of both the miners and their families who refused to give up.

Based on the gripping true story of survival—and filmed with the cooperation of the miners, their families and their rescuers—“The 33” reveals the never-before-seen actual events that unfolded, above and below ground, which became nothing less than a worldwide phenomenon.

The international cast is led by Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”), James Brolin, and Lou Diamond Phillips, with Bob Gunton and Gabriel Byrne. The main cast also includes Mario Casas, Jacob Vargas, Juan Pablo Raba, Oscar Nuñez, Tenoch Huerta, Marco Treviño, Adriana Barraza, Kate Del Castillo, Cote de Pablo, Elizabeth De Razzo, Naomi Scott, Gustavo Angarita, and Alejandro Goic. 

Patricia Riggen directed “The 33” from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Oscar nominee Craig Borten (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Michael Thomas, based on the screen story by Jose Rivera and the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar. The film was produced by Oscar nominee Mike Medavoy (“Black Swan”), Robert Katz and Edward McGurn. Carlos Eugenio Lavin, Leopoldo Enriquez, Alan Zhang and José Luis Escolar served as executive producers.

The behind-the-scene creative team included cinematographer Checco Varese, production designer Marco Niro, editor Michael Tronick and Oscar-nominated costume designer Paco Delgado (“Les Misérables”). The Academy Award-winning team of Alex Henning and Ben Grossman (“Hugo”) supervised the visual effects. The score was composed by Oscar winner James Horner (“Titanic”).

“The 33” was filmed on location in Chile’s harshly remote yet stunningly beautiful Atacama desert just kilometers away from where the event took place, and deep within two mines located in central Colombia.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Janet Devlin's 2011 The X Factor Audition

Janet Devlin's audition - The X Factor 2011 (Full Version) 

The X Factor: Incredibly nervous 16-year-old Janet has flown over from the depths of Ireland to be at her audition. Living in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere has meant that she spends a lot of time on her own, using her songwriting abilities as a form of escapism.

Irish Singer Song-Writer & Worlds laziest perfectionist.

She's not sung in public before due to her lack of confidence, but she's managed to summon some courage to perform today. One look at the judges' faces proves that her trip to England wasn't wasted.

Janet Devlin — singer/song writer from Ireland

Twitter: @janetjealousy

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Power Of Love" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood | Produced by Trevor Horn

The Power Of Love — is the title of the third single from the album "Welcome To the Pleasuredome" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, published in 1984.

"Power Of Love (1984)" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

I'll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door

Feels like fire
I'm so in love with you
Dreams are like angels
They keep bad at bay-bad at bay
Love is the light
Scaring darkness away-yeah

I'm so in love with you
Burns the soul
Make love your goal

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Burns the soul
Make love your goal

I'll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door
When the chips are down I'll be around
With my undying, death-defying
Love for you

Envy will hurt itself
Let yourself be beautiful
Sparkling love, flowers
And pearls and pretty girls
Love is like an energy
Rushin' rushin' inside of me

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Burns the soul
Make love your goal

This time we go sublime
Lovers entwine-divine divine
Love is danger, love is pleasure
Love is pure-the only treasure

I'm so in love with you
Burns the soul
Make love your goal

The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
The power of love
A force from above
A sky-scraping dove

Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Burns the soul
Make love your goal

I'll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door

A History Of British Style Tribes: Episode 1 Grime & Emo | Street, Sound & Style

A History of British Style Tribes - Episode 1 Grime & Emo | Street, Sound & Style

The first installment unpacks the growth of emo and grime in the early-noughties.

Episode 2: Jungle & Cybergoth -
Episode 3: Grunge & 90s Style -
Episode 4: B-Boys, Ibiza & Acid House -

SOUTHPAW (2015) -starring- Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker & 50 Cent | Directed by Antoine Fuqua

SOUTHPAW (2015) Trailer #1 -starring- Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris & Victor Ortiz | Directed by Antoine Fuqua

SYNOPSIS: From director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) and writers Kurt Sutter (SONS OF ANARCHY) and Richard Wenk (THE MECHANIC) comes SOUTHPAW - the story of Billy "The Great" Hope, Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World. 

When tragedy strikes and he loses it all, Billy enters the battle of his life as he struggles to become a contender once again and win back those he loves. SOUTHPAW stars Academy Award® nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz.

SOUTHPAW (2015) –In Theaters– Friday, July 24th, 2015

SOUTHPAW (2015) Trailer #2 - Jake Gyllenhaal Boxing Drama

Quincy Jones $1,500 Headphones

Quincy Jones headphones sound great, but are they worth $1,500?

That technology, TruNote, uses two microphones in each ear cup to measure the frequency response and uses filters to compensate accordingly while you wear them. As you listen to a particular type of music, you press a button on the right ear cup and release it upon hearing a tone. A second or so later you'll hear a couple of blips that let you know the headphones have been calibrated to the shape of your ear.
I guess I don't have a trained ear because, to be honest, I had a hard time telling the difference whether I calibrated the headphones or not.

AKG Quincy Jones N90Q
As active noise cancellation headphones, the AKGs send out signals to kill the frequencies of external unwanted noises — the blur of an airplane engine, say. I didn't get a chance to listen on a plane, but the headphones did an excellent job of blocking out the noise on a commuter bus.
You flip a switch attached to the right ear cup to turn the headphones on or off. You cannot listen in the off position, so you'll want to make sure the headphones are fully charged if you expect to be without power for awhile. Unfortunately, there's no status indicator to warn you when the battery is about to die.
You charge the headphones through USB. Harman says you'll get about 12 hours between charges. The headphones come with a heavy metal carrying case with a power bank and USB connector inside that lets you charge them while they're stashed away. A lighter travel pouch (without the built-in charger) is also supplied.
USA Today's Ed Baig asks Quincy Jones about his new headphones,
the $1500 AKG N90Q
The headphones themselves are on the heavy side but comfortable. The headband and ear cushions are made of leather; the hinge of aluminum.
I'm not sure everyone will love the way they look, however. A co-worker said I looked dorky. My wife thought they were ugly.
You can rotate an aluminum ring on the right ear cup to adjust the volume. A ring on the left ear cup controls bass and treble. You can also fine-tune listening modes for a surround sound experience or for a studio setting.
Like many people, I listen to streaming music on my phone, where outside distractions and less than optimal source material makes you wonder whether headphones like these are overkill? The sound was impressive just the same.
But I also spent a pleasurable afternoon testing the headphones in a more ideal listening environment, in a secluded room at the Harman store. I listened to compact disks playing in a high end OPPO Blu-ray player. I took in an eclectic mix: Super Audio CDs of the classic Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album — the authentic-sounding cash register in Money reminded me how expensive these headphones are — and the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra performing material from Sir Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughn Williams.
A Blu-ray Audio recording of Tears for FearsEverybody Wants To Rule The World andThe Working Hour sounded amazing.
So did the tracks off regular CDs: Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes,Hot Chip's Look At Where We Are and Dire StraitsMoney For Nothing.
Occasionally I switched to $300 Bose headphones for comparison purposes. While I preferred the AKGs, the Bose sounded good, too, and for a lot less money.

Jones told me: "Music and water will be the last thing to leave this Earth. People can't live without it."
He's right, of course. But you don't always have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.
The bottom line:
Pro. Splendid sound. Active noise cancellation. Personalized to user's ear. Comfortable to wear.
Con. Expensive. No indication when battery will poop out. Not everyone loves the way they look. — Ed Baig | USA Today

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Rise, Fall And Return Of Quaaludes

Dear Audience,

Pardon my ignorance or naivety, but the very first time I ever heard of the word, "quaalude" was from the epic gangster film Scarface (1983). And even then, I didn't know exactly what "quaalude" was — I tried using my cognitive abilities and thought quaaludes was a drug that makes you f*ck -sort of like Viagra for men, but I was apparently wrong. 

Fast forward several decades later, the word — QUAALUDES — has been appearing in national headlines courtesy of African-American's favorite dad: BILL COSBY

After watching Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street (2014) and its far-beyond hilarious scene when Leonardo DiCaprio OD'd on quaaludes — practically rendering him paralyzed as he tried to crawl back to his white Lambo -and- after witnessing Bill Cosby's Spanish Fly a.k.a. Rape Drug comedy routine; I already knew this was the drug-of-choice for Bill Cosby — a sexual predator in the position of power.

There's no need to bring forth anymore victims or hear anymore allegations/testimonies from the numerous Bill Cosby accusers, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind — without an unequivocal doubt, that William Henry "Bill" Cosby Jr. is a sexual predator who is 110% guilty of majority of the hideous acts claimed by his accusers.

Please note, even if some of the women were willing to have consensual sex — Cosby has absolutely no right -whatsoever, to drug them. 

For a more in-depth analysis and professional examination into the world of quaaludes, please continue to read the following BBC article, thank you and sorry to all of Cosby's unfortunate victims. — theKONGBLOG

The Rise and Fall of Quaaludes

Quaalude was popular in the US in the 1970s. Now, the drug is back in the headlines after the revelation that comedian Bill Cosby admitted getting them to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
The admission was made in 2005, but the court papers were only released this week.
They refer back to a period when Quaalude was taken as a recreational drug - so much so that the sedative pill has been banned in the US for over 30 years.

Anyone who has seen Leonardo DiCaprio's depiction of a Quaalude binge in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street - in which he can barely speak, can't walk and certainly can't drive - may well wonder what why anyone would take it intentionally.
Quaalude is a tradename for methaqualone, which was first synthesised in 1951 in India. Germany and Japan were the first big markets, where the drug racked up an extensive record of addiction and abuse. In the UK it was known as Mandrax, a name still used in South Africa.

By the time it reached the US in the 1960s, it was being used to treat insomnia and anxiety. However, it didn't take long for the drug's potent features to be misused.
"Doctors were essentially giving them out like candy," says Justin Gass, author of a book about the drug. "It was very easy to obtain Quaaludes in the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s."
People could buy them in semi-legal "stress clinics" without needing to visit a GP. They were pseudo-medical centres that would hand out the maximum legal prescription. These tactics would often be the clinics' eventual downfall, says David Herzberg, professor of history at the University at Buffalo.
At its height during the 1970s, Quaalude could be found across the US and earned the nickname "disco biscuits".

"America in the 1950s and 1960s was having a sedative boom," Herzberg explains, "so there was this wonderful market for them." As the barbiturates popular in the 1950s became stigmatised, drug companies introduced newer sedatives such as Librium and Valium, which claimed to be significantly different.
Quaalude was part of that new wave. And although unpatented, meaning any pharmaceutical company could produce methaqualone, Quaalude was the name that stuck.
Herzberg says people found it more pleasant to take than other sedatives.
The main consumers - at least recreationally - were young people. "[They'd] decided that all the drugs their parents took were these soul-killing corporate things that would turn you into a conformist robot," Herzberg says.

Musicians sang about them. David Bowie's Time references "Quaaludes and red wine" while Frank Zappa speaks of "Quaalude moonlight"
Quaalude had a novelty but also a distinct selling point. "It got the reputation of relaxing people so that they can have freer sex," Herzberg says, which made them catch on across college campuses. Bay City Rollers lead singer Les McKeown has said he was raped by another man at the height of their fame after being given Quaaludes.

It provides users with a "really powerful high", says Gass, now a professor of neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. It takes just 30 minutes to start having an effect, which can last up to six hours.
But it could be dangerous, particularly when mixed with alcohol, as it often was. "People would lie down to go to sleep and just not wake up," says Gass. "That was quite common."
In the UK, methaqualone was sold under the name Mandrax and became popular too. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards admitted possessing the drug in October 1973.
Earlier that year, a tribunal heard testimony that a Mandrax addict had taken between 10 and 12 tablets before driving a car into a bus, killing two and injuring four others, the Times reported. "A further trend of misuse is mixing Mandrax and alcohol, with disastrous results," said a Church of Scotland committee report on moral welfare.
They increasingly drew negative attention. "There's no doubt we've lost a considerable amount of business because of this substitution of the trade name for the generic name," Elliot Fisher, lawyer for Lemmon, who made the drug, told Associated Press in 1981. He said he was writing up to 50 letters a week to newspapers and police forces complaining about the use of the word "Quaalude" and finding many respondents were surprised it was a trademark.

Regulators eventually stepped in. By 1984, the drug was listed as Schedule I in the US and a Class B drug in the UK, which makes its production and distribution illegal altogether.
Rohypnol, a drug commonly cited in rape cases, which is part of the Valium family, has sometimes been referred to as the Quaaludes of the 1990s. It has many of the same effects, says Gass. It's quick to work, erases memory and is a muscle relaxant.
Methaqualone is no longer legitimately manufactured but it's still possible to find people claiming to sell Quaaludes on the streets, explains Gass.
"But they are generally nothing more than a combination of different barbiturates which they hope would create the same effect but it certainly does not."

An undercover operation smashed one of the most extraordinary drug rings the world has ever seen and changed British policing forever. What was Operation Julie? — Harry Low and Tom Heyden | BBC Magazine

"The Promise" by When In Rome | Produced by Ben Rogan & Michael Brauer

"The Promise" by When In Rome | Produced by Ben Rogan & Michael Brauer

If you need a friend
Don't look to a stranger
You know in the end, I'll always be there
But when you're in doubt
And when you're in danger
Take a look all around, and I'll be there

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you I will

When your day is through
And so is your temper
You know what to do
I'm gonna always be there
Sometimes if I shout
It's not what's intended
These words just come out
With no gripe to bear

When In Rome feat. vocalists Clive Farrington & Andrew Mann along w/ keyboardist Michael Floreale 

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you I will

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
And if I had to walk the world, I'd make you fall for me
I promise you, I promise you I will

I gotta tell you
Need to tell you
Gotta tell you
I've gotta tell you

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
And if I had to walk the world, I'd make you fall for me
I promise you, I promise you I will
I will
I will

"True" by Spandau Ballet | Produced by Jolley & Swain

"True" by Spandau Ballet | Produced by Jolley & Swain

Huh huh huh hu-uh huh

So true funny how it seems
Always in time, but never in line for dreams.
Head over heels when toe to toe.
This is the sound of my soul,
This is the sound.
I bought a ticket to the world,
But now I've come back again.
Why do I find it hard to write the next line?
Oh I want the truth to be said.

Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.
Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.

With a thrill in my head and a pill on my tongue
Dissolve the nerves that have just begun.
Listening to Marvin (all night long.)
This is the sound of my soul,
This is the sound.
Always slipping from my hands,
Sand's a time of its own.
Take your seaside arms and write the next line.
Oh I want the truth to be known.

Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.
Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.

I bought a ticket to the world,
But now I've come back again.
Why do I find it hard to write the next line?
Oh I want the truth to be said.

Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.
Huh huh huh hu-uh huh
I know this much is true.

This much is true.

I know, I know, I know this much is true.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

THE REVENANT (2015) -starring- Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hardy | Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Exclusive: Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Iñárritu on ‘The Revenant’
“I tried to capture,” DiCaprio says, “a different type of American that I haven’t seen on film very often”

With a full beard and a flintlock rifle that he learned how to load and shoot, Leonardo DiCaprio had the outer trappings needed to play 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass in director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant. Yet as the film’s trailer suggests, what this isolated-in-the-wilderness character would not be given, for many minutes of screen time, would be words to speak.

“It was a different type of challenge for me,” DiCaprio says, “because I’ve played a lot of very vocal characters. It’s something that I really wanted to investigate — playing a character that says almost nothing. How do you relay an emotional journey and get in tune with this man’s angst … without words?”

As he speaks on the phone, DiCaprio is days away from heading south — way, way south — to Ushuaia, in the Tierra del Fuego region of Argentina, chasing the snow and cold necessary to shoot the film’s final scenes. He will not need help packing. “I’m quite used to dressing warm,” he says. “Been doing it for nine months, so” — he chuckles — “I’m very well equipped. I’m prepared for that weather.”

Weeks of wintertime shooting with Iñárritu in the Canadian Rockies northwest of Calgary, amid vast landscapes still untouched by commercial structures, will do that. It was there that the Birdman director brought DiCaprio to star in The Revenant, a survival adventure fused with what DiCaprio calls “almost an existential journey” that tells the inspired-by-real-events story of Glass, long an exalted figure among American outdoorspeople.

An expert hunter and fur trapper along the Upper Missouri River, Glass would be mauled by a grizzly bear within what is now Perkins County, South Dakota, in August 1823. The two men assigned to look after him — or to bury his mutilated remains — left him to die, alone. Glass would refuse to do so. His successful struggle to make his way hundreds of miles to the southeast would transform him into a mountain-man legend. As reimagined by Iñárritu, with fresh layers of meaning and a host of interior crises as well as physical ones, that struggle takes on new dimensions, as does the character of Glass.

“He was attacked by a bear, he was abandoned, and he had to go 300 miles to get revenge — this was what is known about him,” explains the 51-year-old Iñárritu, sipping something warm in the Santa Monica offices where he’s begun editing the movie. For him, the raw facts of Glass’s life were just the beginning, an opportunity to see Glass “as an example of the relentless possibilities of the human spirit against so many challenges: racial, physical, spiritual, social. I took that opportunity to create my own Hugh Glass: my interpretation of who he could have been.”

That interpretation drew DiCaprio to the project. “I tried to capture — or emulate on film — a different type of American that I haven’t seen on film very often,” DiCaprio says. “This [was] an unregulated, sort of lawless territory. It hadn’t been forged into the America that we know yet. It was still sort of up for grabs.”

That cold, though.

Shot only in natural light by two-time consecutive Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki — known as “Chivo” — The Revenant is populated with performers playing Caucasian fur trappers and people of native tribes such as the Arikara and the Pawnee, all of them filmed amid the same brutal conditions as their 1820s counterparts.

“There was something very positive about shooting in those conditions, to understand what those guys [from the 1820s] went through,” Iñárritu says. “We don’t have adventures anymore. Now people say, ‘I went to India … it’s an adventure.’ No: We have GPS, a phone, nobody gets lost. Those guys really were in a huge physical, emotional adventure in the unknown territory. After you see what these guys went through, you understand what pussies we are: Our apartment is not at the right temperature, there is no ham in the fridge, and the water is a little cold … When did that happen?

“Actors were not in sets with green screens and laughing,” Iñárritu says. “They were miserable! And they really feel the fucking cold in their ass! They were not acting at all!”

Neither was their director, who, like his cast and crew, would spend last winter trudging a half-hour on foot in subzero temperatures to reach otherwise inaccessible set locations. “We had a blizzard that was 29 degrees below,” he says, “and the water was coming from the river, full of snow. I was trying to get my phone, to take a picture — and if I take off my glove to take a picture, 40 seconds, I couldn’t feel my fingers. There were moments when you said, ‘What the fuck are we here for?’”

And yet, those conditions notwithstanding, The Revenant’s shoot would run out of snow. “The snow melted down, literally, in front of our eyes,” Iñárritu says. “We experienced global warming; we were planning to shoot the ending scene in a location that supposedly will have snow …” he laughs. “[But there were] bees. So we had to shut down.”

That six- or seven-day shoot near the South Pole looms in the near future — Fox’s Christmas Day release date isn’t so far off, either — but Iñárritu appears anything but stressed out. “I am a pretender,” he says with a smile. “It’s been a challenging period of postproduction, editing, and preproduction, which is weird. Nonstop. Honestly, nonstop.”

You may have noticed: Not many of these kinds of films get put into production these days. Says producer Steve Golin, CEO of Anonymous Content, “Having a star as big as Leo definitely gave us the ability to make the movie at the scale that we made it.”

For DiCaprio, now 40, The Revenant marks a new scale of sorts; it’s a performance that could make him part of the Oscar conversation once more. “Honestly, Leo, he’s attacked by a bear, and after that, he becomes almost like a silent character: a lot of things going on, but no words,” Iñárritu notes. “That’s for me the essence of cinema: not to rely on the words, but images and emotions.”

“The preparation was really more being completely in tune with my surroundings,” DiCaprio says, “and doing my best to pretend that no one was around, because it is so much about this man’s isolation and his will to live — somebody that’s lost everything. And all that … needed to be translated with very [few] actors around me.

“So I was intrigued by the challenge and in particular with this group of filmmakers.” He chuckles again. “If nothing else, I figured it’d be an interesting journey.”

Alejandro G. Inarritu at the Oscars in February.

From the sound of things, The Revenant has been just that, a long-in-gestation project that teams the Academy Awards’ reigning Best Director with the world’s most sought-after actor. “[I’m] very much director-driven,” DiCaprio says, explaining how he chooses what projects to do. “I really believe that filmmaking is a director’s medium. And although the screenplay, the character, is important as well, the execution of that screenplay can only be done in the hands of the right director — especially something like Revenant.”

The origins of The Revenant date back to 2002 and the publication of Michael Punke’s novel about Glass; Golin optioned the book and commissioned a screenplay from Mark L. Smith, best known for his work on the Vacancy series. “It had all the elements,” Golin says. “Man against man, man against nature, it has a revenge angle … it’s just an appealing story.”

When the project landed at New Regency, Iñárritu was drawn to the deep-in-the-wilderness story for personal as well as professional reasons: “When I started scouting, which was four or five years ago,” he says, “I was in a period of my life [where] I wanted to live a year in nature.”

With its long trek in search of the men who ditched his mangled body and fled with his effects, Glass’s story has long been framed as a revenge tale; for Iñárritu, that seemed insufficient. “Revenge is a feeling [that] when you commit it, it leaves you empty. It’s not a wholesome emotion, and it’s not satisfying.” His stakes-raising solution was to create a son for Glass, named Hawk, by a relationship with a Pawnee woman: “I thought that a father-son relation, a filial relation, is much more complex and fulfilling — more empathy.”

DiCaprio says he came on after his initial meeting with Iñárritu. “I had read the script — I think it had been floating around for quite a while. But it was really his passion for the material and wanting to tell this story. You know, it’s not your traditional revenge film, [what] with him finding the keys to survival … and also really a deeper understanding of why he wants to be alive. That intrigued me.”

“He was always the first choice for me, and I think I was completely right,” says Iñárritu, dating his interest in DiCaprio back to 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The strong characters DiCaprio has played since spoke to his capacity as an adult actor, but, says Iñárritu, “at the same time, I knew that he has this very tender, noble, fragile, fractured quality.” It was the combination of the two that the director sought for Hugh Glass. “I didn’t want to make the film of a — boom! — powerful man. The complexity of that, I thought, would be great to explore with Leo.”

DiCaprio expressed his interest but then headed off to do The Wolf of Wall Street with Martin Scorsese. The project came back together during Birdman’s postproduction. As it all coalesced, there were conversations with Sean Penn about playing the role of Glass’s antagonist and betrayer, Fitzgerald; according to Golin, Penn dropped out in hopes of directing a project of his own, and Tom Hardy signed on. “He’s really in a class of his own,” says producer Mary Parent of Hardy.

Tom Hardy in 'The Revenant.'

Like other members of the production, DiCaprio began work by reading accounts written by trappers from the same era and Upper Missouri River location as Glass. “When I read these journals,” he says, “there was a real sense of pride and optimism about — not necessarily what the country was, but the landscape of America at that time. It was kind of like the Amazon of America.”

In the script, Glass “integrates himself, like many of these mountain men did, not only into [the] wilderness, into [the lives of] these indigenous people. But he is still pretty isolated. By having a son that is half-indigenous, that son is even more isolated,” he says. “Really, it’s a journey of a man who starts off incredibly lonely and becomes more and more so.”

“The first scene is just temporary, I’m still doing some things — we spend hours here, more than my marriage … ”

In the editing bay, with Birdman editor Stephen Mirrione behind the board,1 Iñárritu is preparing to show some footage from the film.

Near the film’s beginning, a brook is seen … and as the camera moves upstream and pulls back a bit, showing rocks and trees in rich chiaroscuro, a gun pokes into frame. It is Hugh Glass’s gun. Summoning his son, Hawk, he spots an elk at the river’s edge, loads and raises his gun to his cheek … and pulls the trigger.

The scene moves to a trappers’ settlement, the look of the men and their encampment as messy, random, and reeking as production designer Jack Fisk hoped it would be. “Film cleans everything up so much,” Fisk notes. “I wanted to be able to smell their environment, and Alejandro wants that grit and reality.”

Suddenly, there’s an attack from Arikara swooping down from a nearby hill, the scene likely based on an actual 1823 battle that followed the rape of an Arikara woman by a drunken trapper, according to Loren Yellowbird, another of the production’s advisers. What follows is bravura filmmaking of the Chivo/AGI school, plunging audiences into the scene’s mayhem, fear, panic, and rage with the sort of rhythm and swoop and drive that is both viscerally thrilling and keeps viewers aware of what they’re seeing at all times, as the routed trappers flee for their boat.

The sequence’s flow and vitality are the product of The Revenant’s shooting approach, in which lengthy preplanning led to hours of rehearsal … and then efficient shooting in the precious few hours of light the upper Canadian location offered. “To pull off these complicated sequences, like a ballet, movement needed to be precise,” DiCaprio says. “When it came down to that nail-biting moment to capture that magic light, every day was like putting on a mini-piece of theater. If we lost that one hour, if we didn’t accomplish what we had to accomplish, we were there the next day. And oftentimes many of these locations were very remote. So it was a very intense set, because we knew we only had one shot every single day. Otherwise … we would be back there again.”

Later on, as Iñárritu shows scenes of DiCaprio, he marvels at what he sees. “He hits so many notes,” he says. “He’s not just an incredible actor, maybe the best I’ve ever worked with, but as a filmmaker — the way he understands camera, I think he is one of the smartest people I have worked with.” He laughs. “And the way he conveyed what’s going on inside — by his eyes, his physicality, the body language — I think he did an amazing job.”

“You are really at times within this character’s head,” DiCaprio says. “You are experiencing what he’s experiencing, as an audience member. It’s really a unique film, and I don’t think it’s something people have ever seen before. [Iñárritu] pulls off some pretty astounding techniques. If you can have the audience submerge into a completely different reality, you’re accomplishing something pretty profound.

“A lot of this stuff that you’re going to see in this movie is going to be incredibly memorable. That I can say for sure.” — Chris Connelly | Grantland
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