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For an obscure fur trapper famous for nearly being eaten by a grizzly bear in 1823, Hugh Glass has a surprisingly high Hollywood profile. Richard Harris (Camelot, A Man Called Horse) played a character based on Glass in Man in the Wilderness (1971). Rumor has it that Christian Bale was all set to play Glass in a recent adaptation of the legend when the production was canceled. Both Harris and Bale lend British acting gravitas to this grueling role, but I think their casting misses the historical point: Hugh Glass wasn’t a leading man. He was a bit player who became a model American by surviving an epic workplace accident. Instead of an action hero’s grimace, he met adversity with a grin and twinkle in his eye. A sidekick and a trickster, he stumbled onto the main stage of American culture and tweaked his audience and those in authority with his wild tales.Learn more about Here Lies Hugh Glass at the Hill and Wang website.
Instead of giving Glass to an action director or a man vs. nature essentialist like Werner Herzog, I would ship him off to...[read on]
Jon T. Coleman is an associate professor of United States history at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, which won the W. Turrentine Jackson Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize.
The Page 99 Test: Here Lies Hugh Glass.
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