“Gracias a la Academia — Thanks to the Academy,” the Mexican native began his acceptance. “I can’t believe this is happening. It’s amazing to receive this award tonight. It’s much more beautiful for me to share it with all the talented and crazy cast and colleagues and crew members that made this film possible.”
Inarritu, who won last year for “Birdman,” topped Lenny Abrahamson for “Room,” Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight,” Adam McKay for “The Big Short” and George Miller for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
The 52-year-old has joined directing icons John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the only helmers to win in consecutive years. Ford won for “Grapes of Wrath” and “How Green Was My Valley” in 1940-41, while Mankiewicz won for “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve” in 1949-50.
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Inarritu was moved to tears during his speech Sunday night and began his thanks with Leonardo DiCaprio: “Leo, you are ‘The Revenant.’ Thank you; you gave all your soul, your art, your life. Tom Hardy, all the Native American cast, all the American cast. Thank you for your trust, your talent.”
He also thanked Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki “for bringing the light to this journey” along with producers Mary Parent and Steve Golin. Inarritu concluded with a call to end racial prejudice.
“I’m very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately, many others haven’t had the same luck,” he said. “Erase ourselves of all prejudice and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of my hair. This is for my father.”
Inarritu referred to a scene in which DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass says to his mixed-race son, played by Forrest Goodluck: “They don’t listen to you — they see the color of your skin.”
Inarritu has been the front-runner in a strong field since Feb. 6, when he won his second consecutive Directors Guild of America award. The DGA win placed “The Revenant” in the role of favorite for the directing Oscar since all but seven of the DGA winners since 1948 went on to take the best director Oscar.
“The Revenant” stars DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter, and is set in the 1820s frontier. DiCaprio portrays fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is mauled by a grizzly bear and later loses his son.
Because of Inarritu’s insistence on using natural light, “The Revenant” took nine months to shoot and required part of the film be shot in South America due to an absence of snow in Canada. The original budget of $90 million expanded to $135 million for Fox and New Regency — but the film has become a major hit with $170.5 million in North America and $233.5 million internationally for a worldwide total of $404 million.
“The Revenant” is Inarritu’s sixth film following “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel,” “Biutiful” and “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” He won three Oscars last year for producing, writing and directing “Birdman.”
Inarritu is the 20th director to have won two Oscars. Ford won four and Frank Capra and William Wyler each won three.