Jack Deland gamely put on a fake bear coat and gnarly toothed hood to pose on the red carpet with dozens of Lemmon, S.D., folks Wednesday night.
Deland was a stand-in for the historical figure of Hugh Glass, who was practically ripped to shreds by a grizzly bear near Lemmon in 1823, and whose survival story is the essence of a new movie “The Revenant,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Lemmon scored the Dakotas’ only screening, prior to the national release Friday, and the town made the most of the occasion by rolling out a red carpet, photographing everyone who came -- with Deland as the long dead hero of the saga -- and holding a social afterward.
“Why not?” said Deland, who moved to Lemmon from Florida a decade ago and fell in love with the area, maybe the opposite of Glass who nearly died in the attack and crawled 200 miles to get revenge on his fur trapping companions who left him for dead.
The audience of about 200 was an interesting mix of cowboys, sequined ladies and buckskinned men, who enjoy reenacting the fur trade era at summer rendezvous. One in buckskins was Pete Gusenius, of Keldron, S.D., who said he’s been looking forward to the screening ever since it was OK’d by the studio last month. Like most people from the Lemmon area, he’s known the Hugh Glass story since he was a kid.
“I expect this (retelling) to be pretty Hollywood. It’s not the real story, but it’s still Hugh Glass,” Gusenius said.
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John Lopez, who created a sculpture of the grizzly attack and parked it out front of the theater for the screening, said the night was shaping up to be the success he and other organizers hoped for. Even if the scriptwriter changed up the story, Lopez said it’s the connection to Lemmon that really counts.
“This will go worldwide and a lot of people will try to travel out here,” he said.
Theater owner Angela Lane said she was equal parts excited and nervous about hosting the screening. “It’ll be good for the theater and for the whole town,” she said. If she had one wish, it’s that the movie would have been filmed where the grizzly attacked Glass, a site that’s well known and marked with a monument at the Shadehill Reservoir southwest of Lemmon.
“I wish they would have filmed at least part of it here,” she said.
The Palace will hold showings at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Organizers of the annual summer Hugh Glass Rendezvous will hold a benefit beef and beans supper from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Beeler Center in town. Lopez said his studio, one mile east of town, will be open from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday for anyone who wants to stop in and see his scrap metal sculpture work.