At just 17, Native actor Forrest Goodluck (Dine’, Mandan Hidatsa and Tsimshian) never dreamed he’d be working with the team of blockbuster filmmakers and actors in his first feature film, The Revenant.
In an interview with ICTMN, Goodluck talked about portraying Hawk, the son of Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, and what these past few years have been like in the whirlwind of The Revenant’s success.
How has everything been these days?
It has been insane! (laughs)
Tell me a bit about yourself. As a young actor, how much experience in acting do you have?
I am 17 and I don’t really have any formal training, my education in acting is from a woman named Angela Gibbs, who coached me during the audition process and into the rehearsals during the shoot. Her mother is Marla Gibbs (The Jefferson’s, 227) and Angela taught me everything I know about acting.
What was your first impression of the script?
I assumed this was a movie with a few snow scenes but I had no idea. They didn’t release the full script to me, so all I had was sides to read from. I don’t think you can get the gravity of this entire film In terms of the physicality and the visuals that it portrays in the final cut. It truly transformed from the paper to something that is completely different.
After you auditioned, how did you find out you had the role?
I found out after a long and arduous audition process. Iñárritu the director brought me and my mom into his trailer two weeks before production. We didn’t know what to expect. He told me, ‘Hawk is the heart and soul of this film, and I want you to be that part.’ It was just an amazing moment, because we knew from then on, my mother and would be on what we thought would be a four-month process, but it turned into a seven-month journey for us.
In that moment, we shared hugs, tears and it was just beautiful.
How was it working with other native actors and actresses?
It was cool – everyone has their own story, of course. There was a lot of Native humor on set. It was cool to have our own people represented by different nations. I met a very nice native man, Loren Yellow Bird, who is from my reservation in North Dakota In the three affiliated tribes area. He is Arikara. He taught me the Pawnee language. He is really amazing and a very smart historian who taught me so much.
How was it to play with DiCaprio?
He is incredible. Leo is very good when you watch him off-camera, but if you watch him on the monitor, he just transforms. He understands every beat, he really understands the camera so beautifully. Me and Alejandro discussed this.It was interesting to watch him work and watch Tom Hardy work. Tom Hardy taught me so much.
The whole cast, to include Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter as well as all the fur trappers, were so supportive of me since this was my first feature film. They didn’t get mad if I messed up and it was usually me who messed up. We were all on this journey together. We were a team.
How do you feel your involvement in The Revenant contributes to the film industry for Native people?
I think there should always be more Native roles and roles for people of color. I understand this is from a different parallel, but Viola Davis, the actress said, ‘black women can’t fill roles that aren’t there.’ I think that is a problem we as Native people are facing today.
In America there are very few parts for Native actors filled by Native people. Television in Canada is much different, there is a whole different level of native programming there. It is nice to see the country supporting indigenous programming such as this.
What’s next for you?
I just want to work with good people and learn as much as I can. I don’t even necessarily have to stick with acting, but I want to take it as far as I can take it as long as it is healthy for me. I also want to go to college to get an education. I want to become a filmmaker and director.
I was on a set with film heavyweights Emmanuel Lubezki (cinematographer) and Alejandro Iñárritu (director) and I was soaking up so much these guys. It was just amazing.
I would rather work on the crappiest film ever with a very smart director, then a blockbuster with an ignorant director. Of course, this comes from a very privileged standpoint now that I’ve been able to work with such amazing people.
What do you see when you look back now?
?I think I have really grown up on this film. I auditioned when I was 15, I got the role when I was 16. It was a year-long process and now as we go into the awards season, I’m going to be 18.
Any words of advice?
For the kids out there who have a passion that they want to pursue, just go for it and take it as far as you can go. People will always say there are obstacles, especially for a lot of brown youth out there. Yes, you are going to have to hustle and work a little bit harder then the people you usually see on screen now, but it is important to know that it is possible.