By Nicole Sperling
December 23, 2015 at 03:29 AM EST
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Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Inarritu spent more than nine months filming The Revenant, the 19th century revenge tale about a trapper and frontiersman named Hugh Glass who traveled some 200 miles searching for the man who left him for dead after he was attacked by a bear.

No amount of coaxing could get the Academy Award-winning director to reveal the astonishing bear attack that everyone is talking about, but in a recent video interview with EW, Inarritu does share the motivations that propelled him to take a giant crew into the mountains of Calgary to film an adventure tale featuring landscapes few have seen before. 

Inarritu was out to create an “experiental film,” one that transports the audience to the world onscreen. He accomplished this through one simple, but incredibly difficult, principle: Only shoot the film using natural light — primarily at the end of the day when the light is “ecstasy,” as he calls it. “It’s when God speaks. It’s when every plant really reveals itself,” he says. “I want the people to feel the cold, to smell the fear, to remind them how the wind comes through the trees.”

Despite the challenges, DiCaprio was eager to jump aboard this grueling project, which costars Tom Hardy and Domnhall Gleeson, for a chance to work with the director. “It was a mecca, a voyage, a biblical tale that he wanted to experience,” says DiCaprio. “The whole thing was an endurance test.” 

See the entire video interview above. The Revenant hits theaters in limited release on Friday. It will expand nationally on Jan. 8.

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