Do you know Arthur Redcloud? He lives in Colleyville and works as a fuel delivery driver. Oh, another tidbit about him is he’s in the biggest movie of the year, The Revenant, which just racked up 12 Oscar nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards. Yeah, you know Arthur Redcloud, and even better, you now know he lives in our town. Score for us.
In The Revenant, Redcloud plays Hikuc, a Pawnee tribesman in search of remaining members of his tribe. He runs into Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and saves his life by doctoring his wounds and building him a fort to cover him from the snow while he recovers. The scenes they share are some of the most important and poignant ones in the film. It challenges what we’ve learned through history: Who really were the savages? Native Americans or whites? (Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s answer is very clear in the film.)
What’s rather amazing is Redcloud doesn’t have a background in acting and happened to answer a casting call on the film. He tells us God is responsible for the one in a million shot. Can’t really argue with that unless you want to bring talent in the mix. Little did he know nailing the callbacks and getting the part would change his life forever. Again, he has some of the most important scenes in the biggest movie of the year and this is his first shot at acting. This spiritual journey might just be the best he’ll ever experience in this life. And that’s not such a bad thing.
When you found out about the casting call, what made you want to go and audition?
I wasn't going to do it at first and I just went, I already had taken the time off anyway. I just went ahead and went up there and made the audition, and drove from Dallas, Texas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in one night, and got there to the audition casting calling earlier than expected, and worked it from there.
Very cool. I'm sure a lot of people auditioned, but what do you feel you did that helped you land the part?
Honestly? I would say probably God, creator, because you don't succeed or go from where I was to where I am that fast. Usually there's a process that you have to work up to or get through before you get to where I am. I say that whole heartedly because there's no explanation for me getting to where I am, but that. I know it may seem crazy to some people, but that's how he works. I'm a very spiritual guy, and God heard me. A lot of truths or lie, it doesn't really say a whole lot, but the meanings of what they say in it does. Bottom line, it was him, not me.
This is your first role, and it happens to be one of the biggest films of the year, perhaps the decade. You're working with a lot of heavy hitters: acclaimed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, director Alejandro González Iñárritu and you share scenes with one of the biggest stars in the world, Leonardo DiCaprio. In those scenes, you come off so naturally, like an acting veteran. What mindset were you in when shooting began, because I can imagine how intimidating that can be with all of these heavy hitters’ eyes on you when “Action!” is called.
I was all about just respecting and honoring every nation that was going to be represented, but also the ancestors of every indigenous as well as every First Nations peoples' ancestors because whether it be on TV, or whether it be on film, it was all about just that, respecting and honoring the ancestors, of not just my character's ancestors, or even my own ancestors, but everybody else's that was going to be represented. The indigenous as well as the First Nations, and wanting to do that.
That's what kept me going, but in that, while I was on set or off set I was wanting to eagerly teach everyone. I think Duane Howard [Elk Dog] and Grace Dove [Hugh Glass' Wife] and Melaw Nakehk’o [Powaqa], as well as Forrest Goodluck [Hawk] and me, myself, all did that in all of our roles in our scenes and in our character. I think that's what makes this film very powerful spiritually. Alejandro said that a couple times, because we taught him so much about our Native American culture and the First Nation culture, our beliefs and ... the way we are, and why we are the way we are.
In history books, in the 1800s, Native Americans are known as savages, but in the film we learn that the real savages are the white people.
There you go, yeah!!
How do you feel about Alejandro wanting to point this out?
I think it was, on the making of the film, I think it was one of the big things that was on his heart, because the film was filmed on a Stony Ridge Reservation of the First Nations' people. We went on the reservation when we took those, when we filmed those scenes. Alejandro wasn't trying to tell a story of a man, or show the story of a man. It was the humanity. But also I think his system was, in hindsight, I don't think it was trying to show or tell a story. I think it was to correct a story, because in books these days, a lot of it was written by the white people. A lot of them are lies and false perceptions and perspectives of how our people are.
I think the motive he kept going with is to correct a story, not to tell or show one. I think that's what also makes this film so remarkable in the way he did it, in that way. Because he always asked the Native American actors and actresses about our ways and why we do [something] this way, or what else can we add to — not just to the script — but to the scene as far as who we are in ourselves, and for our people. Alejandro let us do that. I think that's what makes him an amazing director.
He just has this high respect of our culture, because he has one himself. Working with him was so, a gift, but also so ... How do I say this? An honor, but also probably a deep connection him and I had, because his birthday and my birthday are a day apart. He's a Leo. I'm a Leo. He's a deep person and so am I. We have a connection because of those things, but in the working on the film, it made things really meaningful. His whole thing, behind a lot of scenes or sets or whatever, was to respect the people and to honor the culture.
Now that you played a character who endured truly brutal conditions long ago, how did that effect how you see the world today?
Still, I would say, we are so numb to a lot of things. We forget a lot of how blessed and lucky we are to have the things that we have. Can you imagine what today's society would be without a car and how with just a horse and trying to survive and not live? I think we're all living through today, but to go and live with a lot of life necessities, as far as the Internet or whatever, we are really, really lucky to have what we have today.
I think we're forgetting about how hard it was for not just their ancestors, but people like your own lineage of your family. What was it like for your grandfather's grandfather to make it, and to get through whatever. Can you recollect anything like what they said or there's one thing you never want to forget or this is how you make bread, or this is how you can keep water clean here, whatever. I think that's what makes us different from them, is not by years, but I think by mentality.
The Academy Award nominations were announced andThe Revenant received 12 nominations? That's amazing. How does it feel, this being your first film and it gets 12 Academy Award nominations?
Joyous. I was about to go on a local TV station, Good Morning Texas, when right before I went on there, my agent and I, she discussed with me that the film has 12 nominations, and I was just overjoyed in my spirit. It's like anything else, I wanted to be in the same room with the whole cast and share that news, because it's more meaningful and powerful because we would know then that what we went through together meant something, but also did something. It was really great to get that news, but I think I would have really liked to have shared the news at the same time with the whole cast. Alejandro and Leo and Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter [Bridger] and Forrest, Melaw and Duane. I really wish that we could have all done these together. That would have been so powerful.
Are you going to go to the Academy Awards?
[If] I get to. I will see what happens.
Cool, very cool, man. I hope you get to. In the movie, you and Leo, it's widely known that you both eat raw bison flesh. How did you train your stomach to handle that?
[Laughs] Like I said, my grandpa was a medicine man, and so I learned a lot from my grandfather, but I learned a lot from my people. Our people, ancestors, ate a lot of bison a long time ago when it was more lively. How do I say this? Before cows came in the picture, that's all we ate. That's why we live so long, was because we used everything from the buffalo, from the spirit to the body, to the mind, to the heart. We used everything. We ate everything. We used whatever we could to keep us warm, to keep us fed. Ever since I've been growing up, I've been growing up the old way, and eating bison liver or heart, whatever it is, I'm used to. It was easy to me.
It was harder for Leo, because he hasn't been immersed in Native American culture like that, but for me it was just, not just from the ancestors, but being at home. It was them too. It was not even me, but I know it was really hard for him. I kept doing it just because I've been doing it for years, and I applaud him, and salute, and tip my hat to Mr. Leo DiCaprio for not just going through that scene together, but doing that one moment, sharing that one moment together.
[Note: This interview was first published on Dallas Observer.]