Leonardo DiCaprio is finally an Oscar winner.
The star of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant took home his first-ever Academy Award on Sunday night, winning Best Actor for his role as real-life 19th-century fur trapper Hugh Glass, who’s mauled by a bear and left for dead.
DiCaprio received a standing ovation from the crowd. He thanked his “brother” Tom Hardy, as well as Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and even director Martin Scorsese. He also used his victory to call out the growing issue of climate change.
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now,” he said. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
Over the last two decades, DiCaprio was nominated for his roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, and The Wolf of Wall Street, but he had never won before Sunday’s ceremony.
Backstage, DiCaprio talked about his lifelong passion for acting and his gratitude ”to have had parents that have allowed me to be a part of this industry, to take me on auditions every day after school and to tell stories like this has been my dream ever since I was 4 years old.”
The actor also reflected on making The Revenant with Iñárritu. “I got to work with the director and all the things we spoke about off-camera during the making of this movie transferred their way onscreen,” he said backstage. “This was true storytelling. We really got to have a collaborative experience together, and this was a journey that I’ll never forget with Alejandro. It took up such a large portion of our lives, but as a result we have a great film to look back on for years to come.”
The Revenant made for a notoriously difficult shoot, from Iñárritu’s insistence on filming with natural light and in often freezing conditions to DiCaprio eating raw bison liver and sleeping inside an animal carcass for the role.
“I was fascinated by [Hugh’s] journey,” DiCaprio told EW last year. “A man stranded in the wilderness after losing everything. Relaying that emotional journey and getting into his angst without a lot of words or interaction intrigued me. I’ve played a lot of vocal characters in the past, so this was something I really wanted to investigate: how to convey Glass’s complex emotions with very little dialogue.”
DiCaprio beat out fellow nominees Matt Damon for The Martian, Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, and Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs.
DiCaprio’s win was the third for The Revenant, which also nabbed victories in the best cinematography category and best director for Iñárritu.
Additional reporting by Marc Snetiker.