MOHICAN MUSINGS ... Part 8
The Gallant Antagonist ... Patrice Chereau!
And he was wonderful, the guy that played Montcalm ... [Patrice Chereau] ... He was terrific. He was great. I loved him. He was terrific to work with ... Maurice Roeves
Ah, "the guy that played Montcalm" ... the Frenchman ... seems nobody knows who Patrice Chereau is, unless one lives in France! Somehow, Michael Mann knew who he was, and he knew that he'd make the perfect Marquis de Montcalm, General of French forces in the Colonies, in The Last of the Mohicans. That's not all that surprising, really, as Mann seemed to know exactly who'd make the perfect anybody in his film. Who ever would have thought, back in 1990, that Daniel Day-Lewis would make the perfect Hawkeye? Michael Mann seems to innately know these things!
Born in Lezigne, France on the 2nd of November in the year 1944, Chereau is the son of a painter, described by Chereau as being "not such a nice person." After what he describes as a "sad and confusing" adolescence, he would spend most of his days, since his 20's, in the world of theater, and then production. On occasion, he has ventured out in front of the camera playing, among other roles, historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Le Marquis de Montcalm. By his own admission, he is "an awful actor." Be that as it may, it would appear that Chereau had ulterior motives in accepting the role of LOTM's Montcalm. At that particular time, DDL's lady friend was Isabella Adjani. Being on set at times, Chereau used the opportunity presented to cast her in his film, La Reine Margot, dealing with the 1572 massacre of Huguenots in Paris ... the Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
It was only very recently that Chereau has actually learned English, and this French director says his last great challenge will be to direct a film in English. At the time of The Last of the Mohicans, however, perhaps this lack of command of the English language was a huge bonus.
The next planned project? A comedy on the life of Napoleon, starring Al Pacino, scheduled for production in 2001, to be called Besty and the Emperor.
A Director's Filmography:
So, we still don't know that much about him, but that's a start ... Mohicans very own Frenchman!
"The creations of his genius shall survive through centuries to come, and only perish with our language."
So said William Cullen Bryant, renowned American poet & contemporary of James Fenimore Cooper. The quote adequately sums up why it is Cooper's works remain timeless and popular. His strength as a writer was in his creative genius; his ability to create compelling characters that capture the imagination while layering rich symbolism in every book, at every turn.
Argue as you might his writing style, debate as you will the merits of his vocabulary; the man knew how to weave a solid tale. Even for those who prefer to have their Cooperisms served in a modified format, declining the invitation to read Cooper as Cooper penned in favor of edited digests or cinematic productions, there remains an attraction to what he successfully conveyed somewhere within his flowery prose. Somehow his stories shine through & evoke reactions, responses, & repeat performances. That is the creative genius of Cooper. His tales are rich, they have substance, & they still inspire the creativity of other artists.
We've written Musings on Cooper's talents before, however, it bears an occasional revisit. Not only because it is the original cause for this Web Site, or the primary catalyst for Mann's beautiful production, but also because his brilliance should never be overlooked. One can read a Cooper tale twenty times and still unravel a new mystery with each reading. It is noteworthy that Bryant's confidence in Cooper's literary survival was quite a weighty compliment. Easy it is to say his work is a classic when it's already stood the test of time, but to have a contemporary predict the timeless quality of a writer's labors, now that truly is something. Surely, the LOTM Mentor Man was a clever story teller whose creative genius will survive for generations to come ...
The Huron Village ... built on the slopes of a mountain opposite the Chimney that gives Chimney Rock Park its name, the village, consisting of several longhouses, wigwams, and other structures, was constructed solely for the filming of The Last of the Mohicans. Unlike the other specially built sets - Fort William Henry, severely damaged during filming and burned to the ground in December, 1991 & Cameron's Cabin, destroyed during the filming process - the Huron Village stood still, and was clearly visible to visitors, for several years after filming was completed. (Note: The buildings seen in the shooting of the Albany segments were previously existing Asheville, North Carolina structures, though some were re-faced for the filming, and still stand today.)
Slated for a one week shoot in Rutherford County, filming of the Cliff & Huron Village scenes soon spread to five weeks, and generated at least $300,000 worth of revenue to local merchants, whose shops were under siege by hordes of "Huron" warriors ... extras in the movie. The following August (1992) just before the film's October release, crews descended to the area again for a re-shoot of one short segment.
Exact in nearly every detail, the Huron Village was a realistic replica of an eastern woodland Indian village ... Mike Phillips, the Huron Sachem, expressed great satisfaction in the village itself and of the scene shot there (see: MIKE PHILLIPS: THE SACHEM SPEAKS). Tourists to the Park strained their eyes during the summer months, when the village was mostly obscured by foliage, to catch a glimpse of this set. The scene's complex & dynamic tapestry had an enduring appeal!
The Village stood, unattended, for years. Gradually, vandalism, erosion, and lack of care took the Village, bit by bit. Today, sadly, as you stand on the Chimney, gazing across the gorge, a slight clearing in the forested slope is the only reminder of the existence of this set, a prime component of this compelling bit of film making. Like the trailer that was once parked next to the Rocky River Fudge Shop, housing Daniel Day-Lewis during the filming there, the Huron Village is now but a memory.
Every now and then, someone comes along and grabs your attention - not so much because of an obvious talent in a particular field, but because of multiple talents in many fields. Gifted, learned, and constant. Wes Studi is such a man ...
Oklahoman born Studi is a man of many hats. One of the most talented, charismatic actors of today's film industry, Studi's achievements and abilities go well beyond the thespian genre. The Cherokee speaking, multi-lingual Vietnam War veteran has involved himself in causes ranging from the American Indian political activities of the '70s to various theatre and children's programs in the '90s.
Wes Studi At Tulsa Indian Arts Festival - March 12, 1999
Prior to wading into the waters of stage and film, Wes had helped start a Cherokee newspaper, been a Cherokee language instructor, and an Oklahoma horse rancher. Trying his hand at a new skill in 1979, he took on acting lessons. Studi then joined the American Indian Theatre Company, appearing in several stage productions, and toured in his own "Coyote Chews His Own Tale." By the close of the 80's, Studi had amassed an appreciable bit of stage experience and was about to embark upon a film career.
Beginning with "Dances With Wolves" in 1990, Wes Studi's forceful screen presence was recognized and widely applauded by both filmmakers and audiences. One project after another soon came Studi's way. Always notable, his roles ranged from period film "character" Indians to the contemporary L.A. Detective Casals in Michael Mann's 1995 "Heat." His unforgettable, riveting performance in Mann's '92 "The Last Of The Mohicans" as the vengeful and bitter Magua, though regrettably profiting no Oscar Award, assured his standing as one of film's most gifted performers.
Wes Studi At Tulsa Indian Arts Festival - March 12, 1999
Accomplished as he already is before the cameras, Studi's professional motivation and creative determination rivals that of Magua himself. (Magua's professional motivation was the 'war path' - his creative determination, 101 ways to kill a grey hair!) The artist's drive led him to venture behind the cameras. One of five creators of the production company, "Wardancer Film Group," Studi made his directorial debut in 1997 in the company's first film, "Bonnie Looksaway's Iron Art Wagon." The actor has not only produced, directed, and appeared in film, he has also lent his voice to numerous projects - from narrating the "Ancient America" series to character voice in the PBS animated series "The Book Of Virtues." Highly accomplished, some may think the actor might deservedly rest on his own laurels at this point. He has, after all, woven an impressive resume. Still there's more ...
Wes Studi, an influential public figure, is no stranger to benefit appearances, award presentation events, art and theatre festivals, Cherokee Tribal functions, or public service campaigns. From Drug and Alcohol Educational programs to promoting proper eyeglass wear to Indian youth, Studi's endorsements or ad pictures appear over and over again. Guest appearances at benefits and fundraisers are numerous. [Appearing at the "Tulsa Indian Arts Festival" to promote American Indian Theatre and along with Eric Schweig, for the "Barcole Foundation" - a Florida organization's fundraiser - in March '99.] Community involvement, it would seem, is important to Wes Studi. While we are not in a position to make judgment upon his character or intent, for good or for bad, we do find his enthusiasm for and participation in youth programs admirable. Surely his involvement is not motivated by a lack of things to do!
A successful film career, community service, ad campaigns, benefit appearances, theatre promotion, directing, and producing ... a full plate, we'd say! Perhaps not full enough. In addition to these, the veteran, activist, former teacher, and performer is an author, an artist, and a musician. Studi has three books to his credit, including two children's stories; "The Adventure Of Billy Bean" and "More Adventures." Reportedly a hobbyist stone sculptor, he is a founding member of the Santa Fe band "Firecat Of Discord." The band's first CD has been released (February '99). Studi does possess incredible talent.
His intense drive and prolific activities often reunite him with LOTM colleagues. Not only directed once again by Michael Mann in "Heat" - he has appeared at various film and award presentations with other LOTM actors and several films have co-starred either Eric Schweig, Mike Phillips, or Russell Means. The man does get around!
Aside from enumerating Wes Studi's professional accomplishments, LOTM reunions, and social involvement, you may wonder why we are Musing over the actor's many talents and applauding his successful forays into various artistic arenas. Simply, he has shown himself to be constant, reliable, and dedicated in whatever it is he's focused his creativity upon. Not a seasonal worker, but a man for all seasons ... we believe there are lessons to be learned here. Keep up the good work, Mr. Studi.
Wes Studi as Chief Red Cloud in TNT's Crazy Horse
Courtesy of Rose & Sun Eagle
MOHICAN PRESS BOOK SHOPPE
To hear more from Wes, read MEETING MAGUA: A WES STUDI INTERVIEW
The Locations. Perhaps THE most pressing single impetus for the creation of this Web Site. (The guide book ... remember?) The stunning locales lend much of their awe-inspiring force to the power of the film. Suitable locations had to be sought out, for their eventual impact on the finished product would be dramatic! Seems the filmmakers were following the Trail before there WAS a Trail! Here's an interesting, first-person, little tid bit of a Musing that offers a glimpse into that search ... offered courtesy of the author ...
On November 2, 1990 I flew Michael Mann [Director/Producer] and Michael Bigham [Locations Scout] on a location aerial scouting mission. I fly for a well-known helicopter company in northeast Tennessee. The flight originated in Bristol, TN and I picked up MM and MB in downtown Asheville, NC at a parking lot helipad. Our primary goal was to locate a site alongside a picturesque lake for the building of the fort. MM also wanted to shoot stills at possible sites for the filming of battle scenes, etc. We flew directly from Asheville to Grandfather Mountain where M. Mann shot A GREAT DEAL of stills from the helicopter with what I believe was a stereoscopic camera--or perhaps a very wide format camera. He asked if I could land on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the east slope of GFM on a little parking area. I did, oblivious to the fact I was in violation of federal law. We were there for about thirty minutes while MM hiked about the mountain shooting stills. Unadulterated luck kept a park ranger from driving by and writing me the big citation (Ignorance IS bliss). We departed Grandfather Mt and flew to Watauga Lake, South Holston Lake, Cherokee Lake and Douglas Lake, all in Tennessee. Having grown up in Gaston County, NC and having fished quite a bit on Lake James, I asked MM if he had considered this location. Ironically, he said he'd looked at Lake James earlier and didn't think it would work(!). After flying around Douglas Lake near Sevierville TN we flew across the Smokies to Cherokee NC where I landed at the ceremonial grounds. Mr. Mann met with a Cherokee Indian contact and drove away to look at more locations. He returned about an hour later with a couple of bags of Cherokee mementoes. I departed Cherokee and flew directly to Asheville. We land back at the Asheville helipad and the two Mikes get out and thank me for a great day. I had a great day and a memorable flight with one of America's premier directors/producers. And a NICE GUY to boot! ... Dan Pope
One of the details of LOTM that pops out at the viewer is, as we've discussed before, the attention to detail. One of those details so well attended to is the making of the various weapons. And, among those weapons, Chingachgook's war club might very well be the most prominent. Asheville native, Randall King, made many of the knives seen in LOTM. Though he didn't actually make the war club, he does now own it!
My friend, Jim Yelloweagle, created the war club for the movie; the one used by Chingachgook. Only two real ones (wood and steel blade) were made for the film, I am the lucky owner of one of these. I have seen many people claiming to be the original maker, but here is what the original looks like. ... Randall King. The other, of course, resides in a glass enclosed case at Chimney Rock Park.
Contributed by Donna Deslauriers, a participant in all three Great Mohican Gatherings to date, '98-'00.
GASTON & HURLEY: THE SOLDIER PAGES || ON THE TRAIL WITH ... MARK A. BAKER || UNDER THE MAKE-UP TENT || ERIC SCHWEIG: AN INTERVIEW || THE FILMING AT LAKE JAMES || PRESS KIT PHOTOS || PRE-PRODUCTION PHOTO GALLERY || MAURICE ROEVES: A HEART-TO-HEART WITH COL. MUNRO