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Will Poulter discusses his role in ‘The Revenant’

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Will Poulter discusses his role in ‘The Revenant’
Will Poulter portrays legendary mountain man Jim Bridger in “The Revenant.” (Photo: Kimberley French/Twentieth Century Fox)

Winner of the 2014 Rising Star Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, actor Will Poulter has been steadily working on his craft since his debut in director Garth Jennings’ 2007 comedy “Son of Rambow.”

The British actor, who also starred in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 2010, has leapt from across the pond to acting stateside. He played the lovable and socially awkward teenager Kenny Rossmore opposite Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis in the film “We’re The Millers” and last year starred as Gally in the film adaptation of “The Maze Runner.”

On Christmas Day, the moviegoing public will see Poulter co-starring in the biggest film of his career to-date, “The Revenant,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Poulter plays Jim Bridger, the real-life frontiersman, trapper, scout, and guide who explored and trapped in the western part of the U.S. in the 1800’s. The film is directed by director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who won an Academy Award last year for his film “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”

Poulter felt a bit intimated at the prospect of being in the movie, especially working with DiCaprio and Hardy “who are far more experienced than myself,” says the actor who was in Boston earlier this month to promote the film. “It felt like a bit of a test. I was always mindful that it was quite a big stage to be on and it was going to be for me, the biggest challenge yet. I found that the challenge was so great and there was so much to do day to day that there wasn’t actually room for the anxieties that I arrived with. I had to box those.”

The epic adventure saga is inspired by true events and tells the tale of legendary explorer and mountain man Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who is brutally mauled by a bear while on an expedition, then is abandoned and left for dead by fur trapper John Fitzgerald (Hardy). Through sheer will and determination, Glass sets out on an unimaginable 200-mile trek seeking revenge on Fitzgerald. Motivated by his love for his Native American wife and son Hawk, Glass endures what becomes an unbelievable fight for survival and ultimately, triumph of the human spirit.

Poulter was drawn to the role of Bridger because it sparked an interest in “playing someone who was bridging the gap between boy and man through such difficult circumstances.” He found it interesting to think about “how that natural period of maturity that we all go through whether you’re male or female; how you would experience that in this kind of environment with such difficult decisions to make that conflict with survival instinct and with the duty you feel to do your job, respond to orders, and accept rank and hierarchy,” adds the actor.

A young man himself who begins the expedition a bit naïve and trusting, unknowingly, Bridger is on his own journey of self-discovery.

“The Revenant,” which was shot in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and in Argentina, mirrored the bitter and harsh conditions that Glass and the other fur trappers actually lived through during that time. Poulter wasn’t quite aware of how physically tough it would be to film the role. “I guess I had a basic level of fitness but I had little to no experience with that kind of weather. I felt very fortunate to actually face the real weather conditions, shoot on location, always in natural light, all of these things made the experience very, very real.”

In preparing to play Bridger, the young actor was able to find plenty of information on the explorer. “I guess I was lucky in a sense that Jim Bridger went on to be quite kind of a famous and noteworthy frontiersman, mountain man, so there was a little bit more information on Jim than most. And that made my research process easier.”

The experience of living as Bridger did, in the bitter, harsh conditions of the American West not knowing whether you were going to live or die at any moment, was very real for the actor.

“Alejandro had this brilliant way of kind of making Bridger so real. You find yourself feeling what your character feels, almost accidentally, subconsciously. It’s not such a science as it kind of occasionally can be. It’s just very, very real and it’s just about playing the situation for what it is. I was grateful for that.”