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MARK A. BAKER ... Part 3


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Rich asked me what I thought of the elk hunting scene, and even though my reaction as given below is out of chronological order, I wish to answer the question at this time:

When Michael Waxman asked me to review the script for historical accuracy and give him my feedback, I believe my reaction to the elk hunting scene was one of the first areas I offered a reaction. Basically, I explained that in all my years of hunting, I have never heard of anyone actually running down a wild animal--especially an elk. Of all the elk hunting stories I have heard, the hunters have spotted the animals and carefully stalked the animal--using stealth and patience. I explained that the only way this could work (that is, running and shooting the elk) would be if the two hunters had seen which way the elk was running--say up a ravine--and the two hunters then ran up another hollow and cut off the elk as the elk topped off out of one ravine and began moving across the saddle to another hollow. I have done the same thing with deer. I have watched which way they have taken off, and knowing the lay of the land, I have trotted off up an adjacent ravine and ambushed the deer as they have left their hollow and crossed over towards mine. I have done this more than once.

But to run flat out and chase down an elk--never happen. How fast can an elk run? 30 plus miles per hour? Not even Hawkeye could keep up.

Back to the story ...

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Honestly, working out in a regular fashion has long been a habit of mine, and preparing for this movie and training Daniel Day-Lewis only encouraged me to keep up with what I normally do--that is, run, weight train, shoot for marksmanship, and do a variety of sports that keep my balance, dexterity and confidence up. Not to mention, just keeping my wind wide and full. Scouting the woods in an eighteenth-century fashion is harder work than folks realize. Going with but a blanket, a sack of corn and some jerky can fatigue a modern creature pretty quick. We have grown too fond of sugar, caffeine, heated houses and electric blankets. I knew that I would be working with Daniel on a one-on-one basis and I did not want to be huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with the person I was supposed to be training.

Watching Daniel work with his trainer that morning only confirmed what I has suspected. Daniel takes his training very seriously. Besides his build (6'2" or so and sinewy) which promotes athletic agility, he was, at the time of the movie, a very compulsive runner--averaging 9-15 miles at a time. And he took his training for the woodsman role with the same determination which he approached his running.

Although I was averaging four miles a run at the time of the movie, I would have died trying to keep the pace which Daniel did on a routine basis in his brightly colored tights and athletic shirt. He only inspired me to push my pace farther and faster. I was supposed to inspire him to handle his rifle like a woodsman, but he, in just a few minutes, inspired me to train even harder. But at the same time, I also realized, and still do, that at 5'10" I will always be handicapped to a degree against the likes of him. Plus, Daniel had no obligations except himself at the time of the movie. If one is single--training can last all afternoon if you wish.

We worked out at the gym for almost two hours. I, doing my routine-- while studying Daniel and his trainer in-between my sets. Funny, but in the fancy high-class health spa which we were using, no one seemed to notice that Daniel was Daniel-Day Lewis. No one spoke to him, looked at him, or even pointed and whispered from afar. They just kept peddling on their bikes, pushing the bars up and down or watching the televisions while they jogged or walked on the tread mills. And Daniel just kept working on lifting the weights and moving from one station to another while his trainer did nothing else but monitor, coach and work one on one with the actor.

A couple of items struck me as interesting about his workout. Daniel told me over lunch that he had to increase his food intake up to 3,000 calories a day to beef up and that he did not enjoy weight training much at all. I have been training since I was fourteen--most of the time very seriously and continuously. I do not work out for bulk or to "max out" all the time. I work out to last all day long. However, my muscle depth has increased naturally and the amount of weights I use have naturally risen with the years. All of this to say--I watched his workout from my perspective alone, and I am biased by my own experience, but his workout was not what I expected. Every weight Daniel used was "light," at least to me. This is not to even hint that he was a "whoosh" at all. It's just not what I expected. I was anticipating a work out somewhere between a Rocky workout and my workout. Yet, Daniel never lifted anything heavier than thirty pounds. This just goes to show you, though, that a person can develop sinewy and buffed muscles and never lift a heavy weight--if you have the natural build, the time and the discipline. He sure did wonders for his build and Daniel's hard work is to be commended. In fact, his method of training affected how I have been training ever since. I am not worried much about "how much I can lift," but rather lifting long and stretching my endurance.

After we were done with our workouts, we showered at the spa and then left for lunch. I will always remember this time I had with Daniel, for about two hours that we were alone Daniel and I had a chance to talk as two unassuming men in unassuming roles and relationships. But a sidebar first, I did not know that we were going to eat lunch in a restaurant, and thus, the only modern shirt I had was my workout shirt--which was very sweaty and smelled like a junior high locker room. Daniel's personal trainer (the same man who plays the running messenger in the movie) loaned me one of his shirts he had in the car. Now, back to the tale. During those two hours, I got to know Daniel better than I ever imagined I would have the opportunity to do. Simply put, we just "hung out" together as a couple of normal guys. It was nice and set the tone for our working relationship.

Knowing that Daniel had a great appreciation for old trucks--from the 1940's, Michael Mann had bought him a black pickup truck. If I remember correctly, it was a late 40's Ford and midnight black with a red interior. It was in perfect condition. Classy. We left together in that truck, with Daniel driving and me riding "shotgun." Funny thing (and probably is a reflection of my vanity and a lack of his), but I shampooed my hair and brushed it out after the workout, and Daniel just left his hair in a sloppy Hawkeye fashion--tied up in the back. He left his hair in such a fashion through his run, during the weight training, while he showered, and while we went to lunch in the old truck. He never brushed it, never arranged the tied back part, never paid it any mind. I know thousands of folks who would kill for his hair, and he, ironically, never paid it any attention. Again, this is not a reflection on him, but just another notation on my vanity I suppose. I was more worried about my hair than he was concerned about his--I learned another lesson from him and achieved a personal sense of freedom that day, for I stopped worrying about what I looked like. It was a hard thing to get rid of, for my father always stressed a neat GI look and my mother always wanted me to look "neat." After that day, I tried to not care. It has been freedom.

We left the spa in the truck, with the windows down and let the breeze cool us a bit as we drove down the side streets of Asheville. I grew so bold that I asked him within the first few minutes we were alone about his role in "The Incredible Lightness of Being," centering on how one acts in a part that is so revealing emotionally and physically. I asked myself what I was doing being so personal, and I was ready to exit the truck when he demanded it. But Daniel answered me very thoughtfully and explained that he had known how people would react to the movie and the kind of grief he would receive (from whom he didn't explain), he would never have taken the role. I think he said that "People did not understand." We were off to a good start.

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On to Daniel . . .

It's funny, and I don't expect folks to completely believe me, but I felt at home, almost instantly while Daniel and I rode around in his black truck. He was very unassuming, very relaxed and very honest in his conversation. We are only four months a part in age, and like a couple of new friends, we asked all the get acquainted questions of family, education, interests, hobbies, philosophies on history, working out, movies and politics. We ran the full scope of shared experiences that two thirty something fellahs could share, especially for growing up on opposite sides of the world and in opposite social-economic conditions. Culturally and economically we were opposites, not by choice, but by chance, yet we had much to discuss. It's hard to explain, but Daniel and I visited as I would do with my every day friends. Just the two of us, without any barriers. Simply put, it made for easy conversation.

On the way to lunch, we stopped at a sports store and Daniel was looking for some new running gear--shoes, spandex, I can't remember which. The store didn't have what he wanted, and we only spent a few minutes in the shop, but while we were there no other customers wandered inside the building. And by the reaction of the store employees, I don't think they knew who he was--either that or they didn't care. I only tell this small incidental story for one reason--a reason which I just recently remembered as I sit here at the computer crafting this tale. On the way to lunch, Daniel had asked me "Would it be alright if we stopped off at a store for a few minutes before we go to lunch?"

That struck me as kind, and even humble. I had gone into this situation by thinking of myself as the "hired hand," and the "hired hand" does what the customer wants--even if it means going to a sports store and waiting while the customer looks at purple spandex running tights. After he asked me "would it be alright," all pretense was gone, and I was ready to go with him to the Sahara and join the Foreign Legion--his attitude was that polite and unassuming.

Besides, where was I going to go? I was riding alone with Daniel in a cherried out classic truck. Who would have thought that just a couple of months previous, I had watched "My Left Foot" on video, and spotted Daniel for a brief moment on the television, at the academy awards, giving out the new Best Actor award. And now we were talking like old mates.

America is wonderful!

When we arrived at the downtown Production Office of The Last of the Mohicans, once again Daniel asked me if I didn't mind if we ran upstairs so he could get some money. "Sure," I said--he seemed so easy to get along with. We went to the payroll office and Daniel talked to one person in particular, signed something and had a roll of cash in a matter of minutes. I do not know how much money he had, and I didn't stand close enough to see. And, I did not feel confident enough to ask him how all of that worked--if he had a per diem food allowance, or if such withdrawals came directly from his handsome salary.

We walked down the stairs (the payroll office was on the second floor), outside to the side walk and around to the front door of the "Cafe on the Corner," the same restaurant where I had stood waiting for Michael Mann to show up at the Production Office. As an American growing up on westerns, of being bred on protecting the clan and watching my backside, I naturally wanted the chair against the wall. But I held back and said nothing, for as I explained earlier, I considered myself to be the hired hand and thus, Daniel could have first choice. Where did he choose? The chair opposite the wall--he sat right down with his back to the crowd. Couldn't help but wonder why--but I didn't ask. I just started analyzing as was my custom as an American Studies graduate student who was studying for months on end the customs of our society. Did he sit with his back to the crowd to avoid all the eye contact? Is that how he copes with the instant celebrity of him being in the relatively small town of Asheville? Or was it again, another reflection of his being considerate of me. Did he give me the chair against the wall as a gesture of kindness? Or is such a position at a table, in a restaurant not an important issue to a man who grew up in Ireland and far away from John Wayne, Doc Holliday or Wild Bill Hickok?

Funny thing, in looking back on this luncheon for two, I remember the restaurant being packed full with the business time lunch crowd, yet, when we walked into the place, we had a seat, at a small table for two, against the wall and away from the front. I didn't think about it at the time, but while we worked out at the spa, his driver was not around. Was he in downtown taking care of the lunch reservations? The driver did meet us directly after lunch, just outside the cafe, with Daniel's rifle and "kit" in the car and ready to go. Funny thing, but his driver always wore black; black boots, black pants, black shirt (long sleeve) no matter how hot the weather.

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This following episode is out of chronological order, but I am writing in response to a question of Elaine's regarding the housing arranged for the principal actors. If I remember correctly, the principal actors stayed at the hotel across the street from the Cafe on the Corner, but down the block 100 yards or so. This is long term memory and I didn't take as much interest in it as I should have, so I may be off, but I know that Shirley Crumley parked her car across the street in the underground parking lot of that hotel (I think). One time, for some reason, she asked me to get her car for her. Either that is the location, or I think, they stayed at the Marriott Hotel. Is there one in Asheville?

But Daniel's living arrangements I know first hand, for I had the privilege, by accident, of seeing where he lived during the filming. After we had trained most of the afternoon together in the action of running and reloading a flintlock rifle, I assumed that we would ride back to downtown Asheville where I would be dropped off at the Production Office and Daniel would pick up his classic pick up truck. However, that is not what happened. As the dinner hour approached, and Daniel grew hungry and, I suppose, ready to call it quits for the day, we changed out of our eighteenth-century clothing and climbed in the Lincoln Town Car and headed out of the Volunteer Firefighter's Training Ground. As I had done going in, I sat in the back, next to Killdeer (which was housed in a wooden box built for the protection of the rifle). Daniel preferred to ride up front, on the passenger's side of the car. The windows were down, and the breeze felt good, for we had spent several hours in the Carolina sun, in breech clouts and leggings, running about the woods. We were once again sweat-stained and fatigued.

Instead of heading downtown, we turned south on the interstate and drove several miles away from Asheville. How far, I do not remember, but I think it took about 15 minutes or so to get to an exit. We got off the highway. Actually, now that I think about it, it may only have been a state highway (two-laner) and not the interstate. We took a side road on the west side of the highway, and wandered along a very narrow, but paved country lane. It zig-zagged around the farms and country houses and we traveled in this manner for 2 or 3 miles. I commented on how twisted this road was and how easy it would be to run into someone as both approached one of the tight curves--but from opposite directions. As soon as I made that comment, Daniel and the driver both looked at each other and grinned and chuckled.

Again, not wanting to walk anywhere the hired hand should not go, I did not say anything, but let it pass. Not long afterward, we pulled into a secluded lot on the east side of the country lane (we had been traveling north) and stopped at a log home. I remember it had a wooden deck on the west and north side and I thought it might be two-story, but I was not sure. There was a pond in front of it. "Nice touch," I thought to myself, for here is Hawkeye staying in a log cabin, nestled far away from the crowded city. And "How ironic," I also thought, for all my life I have wanted a rustic log cabin to call home. Here he was staying in one for free and having a ball playing at being the hero. Oh well, only in America. This whole scene did underscore the notion I had that I was the hired hand.

Not that I minded. I relished the opportunity to work with Daniel Day-Lewis. He was so concerned for doing it correctly--everything concerning the persona of Hawkeye.

As the driver and I left Daniel at the secluded cabin and began our drive back to Asheville, he told me the reason why they both smiled and chuckled. Apparently, just a day or two before, Daniel was leaving in the black pick up truck and the driver was arriving with the Lincoln Town Car. Yes, they both came around the same corner at the same time and hit bumpers. Fortunately, both were driving slow enough, and both heavy-duty bumpers matched perfectly, that no visible damage was done to either vehicle.

This location was a supposed secret, a place where Daniel could be alone, retreat visibly and mentally. The driver asked me to not tell of this cabin in the woods. And I never did so until now. It was nice to be trusted and I did not want to break that trust. And that loyalty paid off, as I will explain in the next episode.

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Back to the story . . . .

After the driver and I dropped off Daniel Day-Lewis at his cabin, I could not help but think of my dream of living in the woods, in a log home, with the trees fluttering in the breeze and the canes bending with the wind. Ironically, there Daniel stood, on his porch, as we drove off--in a sense, at least in my mind, standing on my porch. Oh well, I thought, someday I will have that dream (still don't but am getting closer).

The next day, a Tuesday, if I remember correctly, the driver met me downtown and we drove out to the cabin to pick up Daniel and then we all headed over to the volunteer fireman's training grounds--located just outside of Asheville. To the south and east I believe. Since the actors cast as soldiers were filming on the set that day, we had the training grounds to ourselves. In case any of you haven't been there, let me describe the terrain. Along one long edge is a massive covered picnic, eating, meeting area. It is divided into two sections and is screened along all four sides. Under cover are a dozen or more picnic tables, a kitchen area and restrooms. In front of the pavilion is a huge grass-covered field, perhaps 800 yards long or more, and bordered on all sides by deep woods (I may be off here on remembering the length of the field). Inside this grassy area, the military had trained, under the hot and humid sun. I admit it, but while working with Daniel, I had the best of the worlds. We worked in the shade and only stood in the direct heat of the sun at our leisure. But on this second day of personal training, we had the entire field to ourselves. Thus, while the driver slept once again in the shade, Daniel and I changed into our eighteenth-century "kit," and began to train once again in the art of shooting, running and reloading.

Before I explain in brief the reloading sequence, let me underscore the notion that this is a dangerous practice and by modern standards a routine not considered safe. DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN! I am not going to tell you enough so that you can duplicate the skills learned, but just enough to give you the flavor. Okay?

Okay. Both of us were dressed in leggings and breechclouts, but while I wore moccasins of my own manufacture, Daniel wore his running shoes--the same ones I had seen him wearing the first morning I saw him running down the street. This is another point of observation--I considered the moccasins necessary, both for character and for realistic training. At first glance, Daniel's running shoes appeared foreign, and I had to remind myself that he and I did not do it with the same purpose. I learned these skills to become a woodsman--to be one as much as possible in the likeness and manner of the original eighteenth-century woodsmen (a quest continuous and always full of challenges). Daniel, though, was learning the skills to "act" as a woodsmen. He is intense, very serious and a strong believer in training--we have all read stories to verify this and movie fans have benefited greatly from his dogged training--but there is still a difference. And besides, the running shoes fit the common goal, for the moccasins that Daniel and the principle Indians wore were really high-tech Adidas running shoes covered with deerskin centerseam moccasins (see the credits at the end of the movie). Looking back, I wish I had spent more time examining the shoes they wore in a critical manner, for I still don't know how the wardrobe people manufactured the moccasins with running shoes inside them--all without looking like moccasins with running shoes inside of them. How did the actors get the shoes off and on and how did they hide the shoe laces? Interesting questions, but I digress. Be patient with my wanderings.

Since Daniel had caught on so well to the act of running and reloading and of marksmanship the day before (he is an excellent athlete and a thoughtful student), I upped the training the second day. I placed sections of cut firewood down the edge of the meadow, running from one end to the other and parallel to the pavilion earlier described. I set out five or six chunks of wood, each one about the same length and size (to fit in a standard fireplace), and each one about 70 yards a part. Daniel and I stood at one end and began jogging down the center of the meadow, reloading our rifles as we scooted across the green covering. We needed about 50 to 70 yards at a trotting pace to load the rifles on the move. Thus, the wood chunks worked out perfectly, for they offered a realistic challenge.

Together, Daniel and I ran, side by side, going through the routine and then stopping just long enough to shoot at the first chunk of wood. We blew down the barrel, ran a wet patch up and down the barrel and then jogged again towards the next target. We hit each wood chunk in its own turn, having a good time as we did so. In a normal running fight, one would not take time to run a wet patch up and down the barrel, but I did not want to take a chance of severe burns and disfigurement for the sake of "being" a real woodsman.

As we ran, fired, joked and laughed, the driver slept on the front seat of the Lincoln, with one door opened and one booted foot sticking out of the portal. He did so in the shade, which he needed, for the humidity was intense, bearing down on us in a pressing manner. I was comfortable, but sweating without a shirt and just in leggings and breechclout, but the driver was always in black--even black boots and one time a long-sleeved black turtle neck. I never understood that.

Daniel is a very gentle man in spirit and voice. I never once felt as if I was out of line or intruding. Of course, I did not cut and joke with him as I would my personal friends, but the working relationship was easy, relaxed. I could tell he appreciated the work we were doing, and that helped me to feel at home with a mega star. While I am thinking on this, here is a bit of Hollywood workings: if this afternoon spent shooting would have been amongst my close friends, we would have all moved logs, jagged each other with verbal taunts, cut up a bit and generally drawn the metaphorical lines in the sand before a single shot had been fired. But we would have all hauled chunks of wood and laid out the course. But I was the hired hand, and like an African Safari guide (it was hot enough to be in South Africa), I did all the work. Everyone has their own jobs in Hollywood, and it was very foreign for all involved for anyone to be doing anything else but their own assignments--even if that meant waiting for someone to finish their assignment. I can remember two exceptions: Ned Dowd, one of the producers, who personally hand-dug the holes which held the vertical poles on the Lacrosse field and even herded goats when needed; and myself, for I could not let go of my Boy Scout training.

With that said, it was interesting to be running around a field several hundred yards long, hauling chunks of wood to the various sites while Daniel and the driver hung out by the Lincoln, sipping bottled water and talking about their activities the night before. I was jogging here, jogging there, carrying one log at a time and doing my thing. Makes me smile to think of it all now.

But yes, I would do it again, for I was treated wonderfully, and I work well as the hired hand. It is a role well-suited for me.

I was anticipating a good time while running and reloading. I could tell Daniel was ready too, for he began loading Killdeer as soon as I was back from hauling the chunks of wood to the various spots. Yes, I got Killdeer out of the box, checked the flint, ran a patch down the barrel and generally inspected the long rifle. It's all part of being the hired hand I guess.

We had warmed up with the first round, firing four shots at various targets, during which we hit all of our targets. As we walked back to the starting point, the humidity continued to press upon us and the heat index continued to climb. We made a second run before retiring to the shade to drink more bottled water (this movie tenure was the first time I had enjoyed the ritual of drinking only imported water--Daniel always had Evian water on hand).

Sometime during our practice, Daniel asked me if carrying a lead bullet in his mouth was physically dangerous. I answered by explaining that we are holding the lead in our mouths for a brief time, and only very seldom. Since the lead wasn't heated and we didn't swallow the bullets, I felt we were okay. As he cradled one of the bullets in his hand, he pondered it and gave a look of disbelief. At that point, I took a chance and ribbed him a bit, for I commented, "Besides, this bullet is no worse, and probably better, than what you have in your mouth right now." He had just lit up a cigarette, and he withdrew the burning stick with his freehand, studied the camel as he had done the bullet, looked at me and smiled. He simply came back with, "I guess so."

Whew! I had ribbed a major star and lived to tell about it. The day before, I had shot his target, after loading quicker than he did, and I had worried then if I had stepped over the bounds of the "hired man" domain. But even then, while a small crowd watched us, he smiled and allowed me the privilege of "winning" the round. Two days in a row, and two ribbings from me, and I was still working. Daniel must be a human and a real person I thought. I began to loosen up and relax.

Between each round, I set up the chunks of wood while the others (Daniel and the driver) hung out in the shade. It was just after finishing up the latest set-them-up-round, we heard the rain coming. Within seconds, we witnessed the surge of countless drops pelting the grass, trees, sand and rocks. As in a typical hot, Southern summer day, the rain came heavy and fast. Out of instinct we retreated to the covered pavilion to wait out the rain. But the thunder and downpour did not stop. The sky grew darker, the field began to flood, and riverlets ran into the open doors of the pavilion.

So, I improvised.

CONTINUE THE TALE WITH MARK A. BAKER ... Part 4

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TO RETURN TO PART ONE OF ON THE TRAIL WITH ... MARK A. BAKER.

TO RETURN TO MARK A. BAKER ... Part 2.


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