STILL MORE MOHICAN MUSINGS
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Several inquiries have come in regarding the props used in The Last of the Mohicans. Below are a few photos, all taken at Chimney Rock Park, of some of the props on loan from 20th Century Fox.
Hawkeye's Buckskin & Accessories
The Hat Cora Wore in Albany
Chingachgook's War Club & a Canoe Paddle
In Search of Uncas: There are two historical Mohegans named Uncas, both of whom may have had a combined influence on the creation of Cooper's ill-fated hero. Neither of the two appear to resemble the personality of the fictitious Uncas whom
Cooper has used so poignantly to express his tragic theme in The Last of the Mohicans.
The first Uncas appears in 1636, just prior to the Pequot War of 1637, and continues to traverse the historical records through King Philip's War in the 1670's and beyond. Though himself born a Pequot, Uncas became embroiled in a struggle over
succession as sachem. The dispute erupted into a split, after which Uncas and his followers seceded, revived the name Mohegan, and recognizing the potential opportunities for power, formed an alliance with the English colonists. (The Pequots were
originally members of the Mahicans of the upper Hudson River whose displacement in the late 16th century was likely a result of the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy, among other causes. The name was given to them by neighboring tribes, pequot
being an Algonquian word meaning destroyer.) The following year, at the onset of the Pequot War, Uncas and his Mohegans fought against their former brethren and were participants in the resulting annihilation of the Grey Fox Indians. The
increasingly powerful chief, described by some as 'crafty' and by others as a 'patriot', formed the Mohican Federation of which he was Great Sachem until his death in 1682.
The second Uncas, also a Mohegan sachem, lived during the French and Indian War period and was nominally involved in the military events following the Fort William Henry massacre. He was asked by Robert Rogers (of Rogers Rangers fame ), in a letter
drafted at Fort Edward in 1759, to raise a company of men to assist in the upcoming British campaign in Ticonderoga against the French at Fort Carillon. Not much is known of Uncas' character, so we can only assume that he, like our first Uncas, evoked
some quality to Cooper that allowed his wistful heart to envision the virtuous warrior. Then again, it may be that Cooper simply found the name 'Uncas' a favorable one...
Almost forgot ... We've received quite a few comments & questions regarding the actor who played Uncas in the movie, Eric Schweig (as if you didn't know!). For a bit more info on the celluloid Uncas, we're including this, from the Mohicans Press
Raised in the Canadian provinces of the Northwest Territories and Ontario, ERIC SCHWEIG takes on his first lead in a major motion picture with The Last of the Mohicans. As the Mohawk (sic) son of Chingachgook and "brother" to
Hawkeye, Schweig portrays Uncas, the youngest of the trio, who falls in love with the fair-haired Munro sister, Alice.
Having no formal training, Schweig first appeared on stage in Toronto in 1987 in "The Cradle Will Fall". Several music videos and supporting roles in a handful of low-budget films followed.
The actor currently resides in Toronto and Vancouver.
To contact Eric, please write to his agency:
PRIME TALENT, INC.
PO Box 5163
And here are a few excerpts from mail we had received from Prime Talent in the past:
Eric will be starring in The Broken Chain which airs on December 12th & 14th on TNT Network, this film promises to 'outdo' LOTM. Note: Not quite!!
Eric is Inuit and not from the Six Nations region and got the part (Note: in The Broken Chain) from auditions.
... Presently, Eric is on the set filming his new movie titled Tom Sawyer. Eric plays 'Injun Joe'. ... There are two new shows in which you can see this talented young man, 500 Nations and Follow The River ... [in which]
Eric plays the romantic lead!
And ... There is the town of Uncasville, Connecticut; formerly a Mohegan village. The town is named for the first Uncas mentioned above.
For More On Eric Schweig, Read ERIC SCHWEIG: AN INTERVIEW.
RIVER WALK VIEWS
Because of the inaccessibility of this location, we're putting up several additional photos of this scene that do not appear in the guide book.
Our heroes traverse this terrain in front of the falls in the opening shot of The River Walk scene.
Then, it's a climb along the rocky side of the falls.
Finally, they walk the river's edge. ... Clear it up any?
For more on this gorgeous location, see: WALKING THE (RIVER) WALK.
The matter of historical accuracy is really a mute point, after all, this is Hollywood. Michael Mann did go to some great lengths, however, to faithfully reconstruct many aspects of the historical record in the film ... from the different Indian tribes'
hair styles & war paint to the buttons on the soldiers' uniforms. Here is one point he may have gone awry on ...
Geographically, the northerly flowing Lake George does not touch the Hudson River. Thus, Fort William Henry, as opposed to Fort Edward, is not on the Hudson. As discussed in On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans, the massacre occurred near the
Fort (though the film depicts it as happening a distance off). Either way, once Hawkeye et al find the canoes, he says, "Nothing better to do on the lake today, Major?" (Lake George?) Then they, "Head for the river." (Hudson River?) Seeing
as how they hide in Cooper's Cave under Glens Falls, which is on the Hudson, it must be so. An impossible feat, though ... there is no waterway between Lake George & the Hudson River. Wonder what Mann may have had in mind.
It was 1755. No fort yet stood on the banks of Lake George. William Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs, moved towards the later site of Fort William Henry with a force of some 3400 militia supplemented by about 400 Mohawk warriors. A French &
Indian force of 3200, under Baron Dieskau, was intent on attacking Fort Edward, but upon hearing of the somewhat isolated English force at the lake, decided to move against them instead. Johnson countered by dispatching 1200 men, including 200 Mohawks,
to intercept the French advance. Killed in the ensuing battle was the aged, half Mohawk - half Mohican, chief Hendrick, then 80 years old. Before departing, he had warned
Johnson," If they are to fight, they are too few; if they are to die, they are
too many." Sound familiar?
At the Lake George Battleground stands this statue of King/Chief Hendrick & William Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Sam Fruner
The Press Kit, released by 20th Century Fox to the media, included a nice summary, some publicity photos, cast bios, & the script (found elsewhere on this site). Following is the summary from the Last of the
Mohicans Press Kit. We will resist the temptation to correct inaccuracies and to argue points. Most have been dealt with elsewhere. We think it does provide an excellent backdrop to the making of the movie ...
The frontier: a natural paradise, savage and beautiful, inhabited by native people still in possession of their lands, by a handful of immigrants struggling to carve out a new life, and by two armies fighting to possess a continent. As the
war rages between England & France and each side's Native American allies, a man and a woman share an adventure that takes them from the edge of the wilderness and into each others' hearts.
An epic adventure and a romance, set in a time of violence and uncertain loyalties, the story of Hawkeye the frontiersman (Daniel Day-Lewis), adopted son of the Mohican Chingachgook (Russell Means), and Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe), the daughter of an
English officer, is vividly brought to life in Michael Mann's retelling of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. Hawkeye & Cora meet in the wilderness, in the midst of a battlefield called America, and the fates of their families
become intertwined as the war and the Huron war captain, Magua (Wes Studi), threaten to destroy them.
A Twentieth Century Fox Presentation of a Michael Mann Film, The Last of the Mohicans is directed by Michael Mann, who produced with Hunt Lowery. The executive producer is James G. Robinson. The screenplay is by Michael Mann & Christopher Crowe,
based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper and the 1936 screenplay by Phillip Dunne, adaptation by John L. Balderston and Paul Perez and Daniel Moore. The film also stars Jodhi May, with Eric Schweig, Steven Waddington and Maurice Roeves. The film's
director of photography is Dante Spinotti; the production designer is Wolf Kroeger. Dov Hoenig, A.C.E., and Arthur Schmidt are the film editors. The music is by Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman.
The Last of the Mohicans is the best known of the five books called the Leatherstocking Tales by America's first great popular novelist, James Fenimore Cooper. Cooper grew up in the frontier settlement of Cooperstown, New York, and knew firsthand
the wilderness landscape he described. Within that landscape he set his most enduringly popular creation, the character of Hawkeye, who became the first American western hero in literature and then film.
Most Americans first came in contact with Cooper's novel as schoolchildren, but Michael Mann's memory of The Last of the Mohicans begins with the 1936 version. "'The Last of the Mohicans' is probably the first film I saw as a child," Mann
says. "It was a black-and-white 16 millimeter print, and I must have been three or four - it's the first sense memory I have of a motion picture." Starring Randolph Scott as Hawkeye, this earlier film was based on a screenplay by Phillip Dunne.
It was that memory which led Mann, when he decided to make an historical film, back to Cooper's novel. "I found parts of it very provocative and powerful," he says, "but the novel was written in an age which romanticized the events of 75 years earlier.
It also diminished complex and powerful native cultures into simplistic and two-dimensional villains."
Fascinated by this period, Mann began his own research. The novel was accurate in its account of the events surrounding the siege and eventual fall of the British Fort William Henry to the French, which he supplemented with accounts by the historian
Parkman, the diaries of Compte de Bougainville (aide-de-camp to Montcalm, the French commander portrayed in the film) and the work of Simon Shama and Howard Zinn. In other parts of the story, too, Mann moved Cooper's world closer to historical accuracy
in the screenplay he wrote with Christopher Crowe.
"I wanted history to become as vivid and real and immediate as if it were being lived right now," says Mann. "I wanted the people to be as intelligent, capricious, humane, venal and libidinous as anybody else in any other time frame.
"I also tried to counter some of the misconceptions about 18th Century Native American culture. For the most part, they've been disempowered, but in reality, the Europeans could not field an army without allying themselves with one or another of the
militarily powerful native peoples.
"So it was a complex political environment in which Nathaniel was found and adopted by Chingachgook, who raised him as his own son. Conditioned by his Mohican childhood to independent and democratic views, he meets, in the midst of a war, Cora Munro.
Their story crosses cultural and class barriers during the collapse of manners and custom under the pressure of war." The romantic attraction between Cora's sister Alice (Jodhi May) and Uncas (Eric Schweig), the son of Chingachgook, is also a revision of
Cooper, whose attitudes towards miscegenation required that the woman Uncas is drawn to (called Cora in the novel) be a dark-haired mulatto.
The main influence of the 1936 film on Mann's script was Dunne's portrayal of the hero as strongly individualistic, anti-authoritarian and anti-British. Born to parents from the northern English borderlands, Nathaniel, later known as Hawkeye, was raised
by Chingachgook, of the waning Mohican people, from the age of two. Although we know nothing directly about Mohican child-rearing practices, information about neighboring Algonquin and Iroquois people suggests how Hawkeye would have been raised. One key
quality would have been a concept of self based on the understanding that no man has dominion over another. He would also have displayed a degree of candor in his conversation that would have appalled Europeans of his time.
For Cora Munro, who has come to the colonies expecting nothing more than an extension of English values and mores, Hawkeye is an encounter with a new way of thinking and being, and by the end of the story Hawkeye has transformed as well. "He has really
become that synthesis of the Euramerican colonial world and the Native American world," says Mann. "He has become his own person - he has become the frontiersman. Sadly, that means leaving something behind, and Chingachgook knows it's coming before his
son does. He understands that that's when a son becomes a man, and he recognizes the forces of change pushing human history."
Mann's most important decision was casting. In Daniel Day-Lewis he found a brilliant actor equally excited about the process of immersing himself in a radically different time, place and character. Observes the director: "Daniel's performance comes from
his raw talent and his total commitment to stepping off the edge, launching himself on a voyage of discovery that ends with becoming an 18th Century frontiersman. In making Hawkeye real - how he laughs, walks, talks, thinks, fights, hunts, tracks,
approaches a woman - we did not want him to become archetypal.
"Daniel's Hawkeye is original and accurate and the product of a deep investigation into the 18th Century frontier and the forces that shaped him, the values that his Mohican upbringing would have imbued him with. The first realization was that nothing in
the frontier was as we were taught as children.
"I sensed these qualities when I first met Daniel in London and that's why I knew, as we were walking up Shaftsbury Avenue that first day, that he was Nathaniel."
For Cora, Mann was struck by Madeleine Stowe's first reading, which she later admitted was dead cold: "She was dynamic and free. I think, both as a fine artist and a woman, Madeleine has a unique affinity for Cora. Unlike other Europeans around her, Cora
is sensitized and understands what the grass-roots life in the colonies truly signifies: a new world, a new way of being. All this potential is personified in Hawkeye. Because of him and the pressure of tragedy and war, she deserts her class, her family
and her culture to live on the frontier with this man.
"The first time Madeleine read there was a flourish and ease. She found the rhythms and colors and sense of this woman, almost as if it were innate."
One of the sad parts of the location scouting undertaken during pre-production on The Last of the Mohicans was the search for what remains of Cooper's wilderness. "Finding old growth woodlands in which the events took place proved nearly
impossible. Ancient forests don't exist anymore," remarks Mann. "The land that Cooper wrote about had 400 to 500 year old trees, a high forest canopy and little or no brush. We found only two small pockets of old growth forest in North Carolina and one
in Pennsylvania that approximated what the whole continent was in 1757."
The Last of the Mohicans was filmed entirely on location in some of those surviving forest areas in North Carolina, and the demands on cast and crew were considerable. Mann found in Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Hawkeye, an actor who shares his
commitment to making the people real and alive. Accustomed to a lengthy period of research and development in pre-production, Day-Lewis and Mann spent eight months working together before principal photography began.
In addition to being immersed in documents of the period, the actor and director spent weeks in rigorous wilderness training with David Webster in Alabama, learning how to start a fire in 25 seconds, to hunt and skin game, and to use period weapons such
as the tomahawk, knife and most importantly the flintlock rifle. Day-Lewis later joined the other principal actors for more weeks of training. These lessons were crucial to his performance, as were the intensive physical regimen which transformed his
body and the dialect work to establish Hawkeye's roots and background. All actors acquired athletic competence and period-accurate skills which fed into their attitudes, enabling them to become more deeply immersed in the characters they were playing.
Working in rural, deeply-forested sections of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, Day-Lewis faced new physical challenges when filming began. The actor recalls, "You never knew, from day to day, what physically would be required of you in
terms of energy. It was a very demanding shoot that way. I really had to set my mind on avoiding little conveniences, such as people offering cups of tea. Those types of comfort were very distracting on this movie. The environment we were depicting was a
hard one to understand, and you had to try to stay with that."
"It took a while to learn to sustain my energy when I first started working on The Last of the Mohicans, recalls Madeleine Stowe, who plays Cora. "Michael is challenging that way because he cares about details. I really admired his absolute
perfectionism. He would notice or sense things that were slightly wrong with a set-up which weren't apparent to most eyes. He wouldn't roll the cameras until they were lined up exactly as he wanted."
To help achieve believability in the people and their story, Mann sought to make their material world as complex and detailed as it would have been in reality. He quickly found that whether it was French cannons, English uniforms or Mohawk knife sheaths
and war clubs, there was nothing to rent. The physical world of The Last of the Mohicans had to be researched and developed, processes of fabrication had to be invented, and all of it had to be manufactured by the production or by vendors under
the production's supervision.
Consequently, the patterns for woven burden-straps, breech cloths, knife sheaths, war clubs, tomahawks, war paint, tattooing and hair designs for each of four different native cultures had to be designed and produced. A fabric for the uniforms had to be
found and dyed, lace woven, Killdeer and other principals' guns, knives and tomahawks designed and built, massive cannons, carriages and mortars made from scratch from 18th Century blueprints, log cabins built, farms planted with 18th Century crops,
Albany constructed, and a swamp drained, planted and turned into a valley for the massacre of the retreating English after the surrender of Fort William Henry. At its maximum size the production employed 250 crew members; dressed, made up, transported
and fed 1,200 extras, and had a base camp one mile in diameter.
The detail and scale paid off particularly in the portrayal of a frontier society in which Native Americans and Europeans lived together, which was essential to a non-stereotypical portrayal of the Native American characters. "The different groups of
Northeastern Forest Indians had different looks," says line producer Hunt Lowry. "They cut their hair differently, and they dressed differently. Some of them traded with the French, so they incorporated French design into their dress and ornament; some
were allied with the English, so they dressed like them."
"This film shows a time when Indians and whites were separate but equal, and they intermingled and wore each others' clothes," says Russell Means, the Indian activist who plays Chingachgook. "It was a beautiful time, and I love the way it's portrayed
here. My character is three-dimensional, and Magua, the bad Indian in this film, for the first time in history, has a good reason for being bad. Not only that, he's intellectually superior to his French counterpart. He's a three-dimensional character,
"Magua is a product of his time," says Wes Studi, the western Cherokee who plays the vengeful Huron. "Every Indian on the North American continent can in some way identify with this man because of the loss he has suffered. Better men, lesser men, would
have done the same things he does, and have over the course of history. So he isn't really a bad man. He's a man clouded by passion and maybe temporarily insane."
The second act of The Last of the Mohicans is the battle for Fort William Henry between the French and the British, each side aided by its numerous Native American allies. The actual building of the fort proved to be one of the most daunting
aspects of the film. After several visits, Mann and production designer Wolf Kroeger were able to get a picture of how the fort had been strategically positioned to command the topography around it. Period illustrations, drawings and actual plans showed
details that would eventually be built. Specifics regarding the type of timber that was used to fortify the structure and the kind of joints and nails that existed within the structure were also available.
While Kroeger accompanied Mann on numerous scouts of different lakes all over the east coast region to search for the site, art director Richard Holland was hard at work on researching and building a 1-to-20 scale model of what Fort William Henry would
look like. After scouting from helicopter and trekking through mountains and valleys, Mann chose the site at Lake James, in North Carolina's Burke and McDowell counties. The total size of the region was 38 acres. Once the land was graded, the foundation
of the fort was laid in concrete, and this precaution proved well worth the effort when the rainy season came. At times there were storms so fierce that all that could be seen, after the land had washed away, was the concrete foundation that the company
had recently laid.
Approximately 130 carpenters were needed, fortifying the structure with logs, nails and hinges. Local blacksmiths were also secured to manufacture authentic hardware that would correctly replicate the period. Groups of set designers were brought in to
make baskets and manufacture the multiplicity of detail needed to make an historical reality believable. Everyone was required to attend a safety meeting once a week. As a result, no accidents occurred during the entire process.
From bastion to bastion, the Fort William Henry structure on top of a hill overlooking Lake James measured 400 feet by 300 feet. From the grading of the land to the final detail of dressing the set, the entire project took only eleven weeks - far less
than anyone had imagined, especially with weather conditions ranging from pounding rainstorms to temperatures over 100 degrees.
The forest area in which the fort was built consisted of 17-year old trees that are harvested and re-seeded every 25 years, and almost all of the timber that was needed to build the fort came from local sources. Practically everything that was cut down
was used in one way or another. Upon conclusion of filming, the structure was torn down and the area re-seeded. As it did in history, the fort fell to its next possessor, the land from which it was built.
PRESS KIT PHOTOS
Click here for more about THE FILMING AT LAKE JAMES.
"Have you seen the Red Man?"
...Of course we did, Alice! Though in reality, the British regulars would not have seen them as they sometimes did in Mann's film. While the scenes depicted in The Last of the Mohicans of Magua & company stealthily stalking the
unsuspecting English from the shadows of the forest are accurate, other scenes are not. The Indian allies of the French would not have charged into the open field (as they did during the 'courier diversion' scene - seen only in the network TV airing!),
exposing themselves to the readied muskets of the British regulars. A direct charge into the enemy's line of fire was a European fighting style, and though it was effective on the battlefields of Europe, in the American wilderness such tactics produced
insufferable casualties. It was a lesson European troops learned slowly, but learned nonetheless.
While on the subject of Magua,..."He's no Mohawk. He's Huron." Here's what James Fenimore Cooper had to say; "The Mengwe, the Maquas, the Mingoes, and the Iroquois, though not all strictly the same, are identified frequently by the
speakers, being politically confederated and opposed to those just named ( Delaware and Mohicans). Mingo was a term of peculiar reproach as were Mengwe and Maqua in a less degree." Thus did Magua receive his name.
Though the Mohican trio in The Last of the Mohicans react to Heyward's Huron 'guide' with disdain, historically, the Delaware and Mohicans were not always at odds with their Huron neighbors. The Algonquians often allied with the Huron (also
known as Wyandots) against their traditional enemy, the Iroquois. Cooper's tale speaks of a period when they were not.
In the novel Hawkeye says; "A Huron! They are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are adopted; you can never make anything of them but skulks and vagabonds. Since you trusted yourself to the care of one of that nation, I only wonder that
you have not fallen in with more."
To this replies Major Heyward; "Of that there is little danger,...You forget that I have told you our guide is now a Mohawk, and that he serves with our forces as a friend."
Hawkeye retorts; "And I tell you that he who is born a Mingo will die a Mingo. A Mohawk! No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican for honesty; and when they will fight, which they won't all do, having suffered their cunning enemies, the Maquas, to make
them women- but when they will fight at all, look to a Delaware, or a Mohican, for a warrior!"
The Huron warrior's deceitful skills are recognized by the French, who do not call him 'Magua', but "Le Renard Subtil"; ... "the cunning fox".
Look for more on the Hurons, Iroquois, Delaware, and Mohicans in upcoming History Pages!
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THE SCRIPT ... The Complete Collection of Scenes From the Film
HISTORY & THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS ... Seeing Through the Distant Haze
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Last Update: 04/16/2000