The Hollywood studio behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film The Revenant has been forced to publicly deny suggestions the actor is sexually assaulted by a bear in the big-budget production. That’s right, a bear.
The denial follows a spate of stories on websites suggesting the bear has its way with DiCaprio midway through the film.
“DICAPRIO RAPED BY BEAR IN FOX MOVIE,” reads the headline on the piece that started it all, on news aggregating website The Drudge Report.
“The story of rural survivalism and revenge reaches new violent levels for a mainstream film. The bear flips Leo over and thrusts and thrusts during the explicit mauling,” the article continues.
There is speculation the piece was prompted by a review from Hollywood critic Roger Friedman on his website Showbiz411.
In the review, Friedman recounts a scene in which DiCaprio’s character, American frontiersman Hugh Glass, is violently attacked and “molested” by a bear.
“The bear flips Glass over on his belly and molests him – dry humps him actually – as he nearly devours him,” Friedman writes.
Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind the new film, has been forced to deny the rumour thanks to rife internet speculation.
“As anyone who has seen the movie can attest, the bear in the film is a female who attacks Hugh Glass because she feels he might be threatening her cubs,” a Fox spokesperson told Entertainment Weekly.
“There is clearly no rape scene with a bear.”
The bear attack in question is featured heavily in the film’s trailer, which you can watch below:
Violence for the sake of violence?
While the bear rape might be a figment of the internet’s imagination, according to critics The Revenant is still an abnormally violent movie.
Early previews in the United States have seen several audience members walk out due to its extreme violence and gore. (It’s not due in Australian cinemas until next year.)
According to The Hollywood Reporter, in one scene “DiCaprio dives off a cliff on a horse, eviscerates the dead beast and scoops out the guts so that he can take shelter in its carcass”.
“No scene shocked and awed the audience as much as the one where DiCaprio stumbles across a bear and its cubs, and then is ferociously (and repeatedly) assaulted by the beast, which spins, turns and eventually sits on him, after throwing him around and ripping great scads of flesh from his back,” THR‘s Stephen Galloway writes.
Some critics are pondering whether this level of violence may harm the film’s Academy Award chances.
The same concern is being held for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which reportedly includes a scene in which a man’s head is blown to pieces.
Exceptions to this rule include Braveheart, No Country For Old Men and The Hurt Locker, all of which featured gratuitous violence yet scored several awards, including Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Two things The Revenant has on its side are director Alejandro G. Inarritu, who won Best Picture last year for Birdman, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has won two Oscars in a row for his work on Gravity and Birdman.
Whether some stunning imagery and expert direction will be enough to distract voters in the Academy from the sight of DiCaprio in a horse carcass remains to be seen.
Australian audiences will have to wait until after Christmas to draw their own conclusions, with The Revenant hitting local cinemas on January 7, 2016.
Meanwhile, The Hateful Eight is due in cinemas on January 21, 2016. You can watch the trailer for it below.