“The Revenant,” with all its blood and guts, the mauling bear and gorgeous natural light photography, beat “Star Wars” on its opening night. The Leonardo DiCaprio epic made just over $14 million on Friday night vs. a Jedi $10 million.
With “The Revenant” expanding into general release, DiCaprio is also ramping up his Oscar campaign for Best Actor. The little gold man is his to lose. After twenty years in the game, DiCaprio — who’s had several top notch performances–has little competition. This year was not a good one for leading men. “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” came off as ensemble pieces. Matt Damon in “The Martian” might be the strongest candidate. Michael Fassbender as “Steve Jobs” is wonderful, but the movie fizzled. Will Smith is good in “Concussion,” but the movie hasn’t really broken out. Eddie Redmayne is convincing in “The Danish Girl,” but he just won the Oscar.
One industry insider observed to me: “I’d watch Bryan Cranston once Leo wins the Golden Globe. Hollywood really likes “Trumbo,” and Cranston has a lot of good will built up from Breaking Bad. He’s really liked.”
The major difference between “The Revenant” and the other films with lead actors? “The Revenant” push has mostly been stealth. It’s been aimed directly at Oscar voters. This past week, DiCaprio was feted in New York at a private lunch, and then in Hollywood at a private dinner. There’s been no press involvement. In New York, Sting sang Happy Birthday to his wife, Trudie Styler, which wowed the crowd of Academy voters. Stars on the level of Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty and Sean Penn were enlisted for the west coast dinner.
And all the anecdotes have been fed to gossip columns instead of being witnessed. This is quite the opposite of campaigns for other movies. For instance, Matt Damon mixed and mingled last week, charming as ever, with press and Oscar voters at a 21 Club tea. Will Smith has made himself ultra accessible for “Concussion.” Ditto the “Spotlight,” “Hateful Eight,” and “Big Short” casts.
Cleverly, DiCaprio’s Oscar campaign casts him as a real life version of Robert Redford’s “Candidate.”
So now everyone waits to see what happens tomorrow night. DiCaprio should win the Golden Globe handily. He’s won it before, for “The Aviator.” Once that’s over, it will be interesting to see who is nominated for Lead Actor by the Oscars on Thursday. From that group, perhaps Cranston or Smith or Damon will launch an offensive to grab the real gold.