Alejandro G. Iñárritu made history on Sunday night at the Oscars, winning his second consecutive best director award. The Mexican-born filmmaker is the first director to win back-to-back Oscars since Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who turned the trick at the 1950 and 1951 ceremonies.
Iñárritu, who last year won for Birdman, took home Best Director this year for The Revenant, about the harrowing journey fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCarpio) undertakes in the wintry wilderness to take revenge on the men who left him for dead.
I can’t believe this is happening,” he said Sunday during the telecast, thanking costars DiCaprio and Tom Hady. “It’s amazing to receive this award tonight, but it’s much more beautiful for me to share it with all the talented and crazy cast and colleagues and crew members along the continent that made this film possible.”
He closed his speech with a push for equality, saying he is “very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately, many others haven’t had the same luck.”
“There is a line in the film that [Glass says] to his mixed-race son, ‘They don’t listen to you, they just see the color of your skin,’” he continued. “So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
The Revenant‘s crew suffered nearly as much as its characters. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won his third consecutive Oscar on Sunday night, insisted on filming using only natural light, particularly a very specific kind of light that comes only at the end of a day.
“It’s when God speaks. It’s when every plant really reveals itself,” Iñárritu told EW back in December. “I want the people to feel the cold, to smell the fear, to remind them how the wind comes through the trees.”
This required DiCaprio and his costars to intensely practice their scenes ahead of time so they could capture the single takes Lubezki and Iñárritu have become known for in that small window of light at the end of each day. Although this led to some tense moments with the crew (Tom Hardy told EW he would sometimes wrestle Iñárritu to relieve everyone’s tension), the actors have repeatedly said it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
“He’s unlike any director I’ve ever worked with,” Hardy told EW in October. “He sees things how he sees them, so to give him back what he wants is quite an interesting experience. It could drive you f—ing nuts.”
Iñárritu beat out George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Adam McKay (The Big Short), and Lenny Abrahamson (Room) for the award.