But it turns out the guy who inspired Leo’s character has the craziest story of all. Hugh Glass was a fur trader on the untamed frontiers of 1800s America, one of a group of trappers in the wild mid-West who were attacked by bears.
Glass was one of a grizzled group of mountain men who embarked on an expedition in 1823 to the northern reaches of the Missouri River, in what is now South Dakota, to collect beaver skins, the Daily Mail reported.
During the mission a bear attacked the group, charging Glass, picking him up by the throat and smashing him into the ground. Although he managed to let off a shot at the bear, and stab it with a knife, the attack persisted, with the grizzly tearing off chunks of his flesh.
His companions managed to kill the bear, but Glass was close to death’s door – an injury to his throat left him unable to speak and other wounds meant he couldn’t walk.
Two of his companions stayed with him while the rest of the group moved on, thinking he’d be dead soon, but when he was still alive after five days they decided to leave him behind, lying to the rest of the group and telling them he’d died.
Now Glass was on his own, badly injured and without weapons, tools or food – the two men took everything he had – and the chances of him making it across 250 miles of icy rivers, predatory wildlife and hostile Indians were very slim.
But he made it, using the pelt of the bear that mauled him for warmth he crawled downstream to a fur trading post – he was unable to stand and only had one good arm and leg. At one point he lay on a rotting log and let the maggots eat his flesh, to stop himself contracting gangrene.
Glass came across a group of Sioux Indians who tended his wounds and directed him to the trading post.
He eventually reached the post and found one of the men who abandoned him, forgiving him after he apologised. Glass then set out to find the other man, who he’d heard had joined the U.S. Army in Wisconsin, and still had his treasured rifle.
After confronting the man’s commanding officer he was told that if he killed the trapper, now an enlisted soldier, under U.S. law he would face the death penalty.
In the end Glass was forced to settle for the return of his rifle and the knowledge the man had been shamed – he warned him that if he ever left the army he’d get revenge.
Glass was reportedly killed in 1833 when he was ambushed by a group of Arikara Indians, although his body was never found…