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"Dawn. At the encampment ... See to it you're there!" Well, actually this is dawn at the Fort Site ... July '91.
Photo courtesy of Curtis Gaston
The Fort site today. This view is away from the Lake. Those are the foundations visible in the foreground.
As beautiful and perfect all the various locations used in the film are, they often were actually second choices. Clauses about designated National Wilderness Areas and other red tape frequently made filmmakers look elsewhere. Among the sites the production was forbidden from using, though they very much wanted to, were Hawksbill Mountain, Catawba Falls, Craggy Mountain and Lost Cove Cliffs. So, if you ever decide to follow the Trail, remember that there are a host of other gorgeous & remote settings, which never made it to film, that you can visit while here as well.
Casting calls for extras began on April 6, 1991 ... hundreds lined up for their chance at fame on that first day, with many more to follow. Needed were men (particularly those with long hair), women & children. A special request was for Native Americans. Many from the Cherokee Reservation in the Great Smoky Mountains responded. Following is an article from The Morganton News Herald giving one extra's view of the filming ...
When Eric Hurley was cast as a British soldier for The Last of the Mohicans, the Morganton native was told he and other aspiring actors were cast for the part because they "looked British". Hurley found this reasoning to seem somewhat ironic since he is of Irish descent, and the Irish have traditionally been opposed to all things British. Nevertheless, Hurley and other young men were chosen to participate in an important part of the production, which was filmed in western North Carolina during the summer & fall of 1991.
For more from Eric Hurley on the filming of LOTM, visit the SOLDIER #2 PHOTO GALLERY.
Another extra, John Callaham, gives this account, also from The Morganton News Herald:
When I heard that a new movie version of the James Fenimore Cooper novel, The Last of the Mohicans, was going to be filmed partially in Burke County, I immediately thought how great it would be if I could participate somehow. Being an amateur actor myself, I always wondered what it would be like to be in a major Hollywood movie. So when Forward Pass Productions announced it would be having auditions for extras in Morganton, I jumped at the chance. I was a little worried I wouldn't get a part because the notice said the production was looking for men with long hair. But I went to CoMMA in April to try out anyway. In June, the call came. They were starting filming in July at Lake James and I was to come and be a soldier. I went to Asheville the Saturday before my call date and got fitted for my costume. At last, I was to find out what it is like on a movie set.
Thursday, July 18
I arrive at the base camp of the production at 2PM to see a long - very long - line leading into the extras' holding area. I fill out my voucher so I can get paid (extras are paid $50 a day, plus meals) and head for wardrobe. Tonight, I am going to play a French Marine. However, it seems the fitting I went for in Asheville was ignored. They simply hand me a costume and show me to the dressing area. I mutter something about wasted gas & time under my breath and head for the dressing area. The costume is made of wool, which is not the smartest thing to wear in the searing July sun. Since we are shooting at night, it would be less of a burden. Another person in the dressing area joked about the new wool clothing diet - "Lose 80 Pounds in 12 Hours". I concur.
Friday, July 19
I decide to arrive a little early to beat the lines, but that plan doesn't work. The trained soldiers get first priority and I'm in the back of the line again. There is a little confusion about who I'll be playing tonight. First I'm a British soldier, then I'm a French, and finally I'm assigned to be British again. The British costume is a little less ornate than the French and a little less heavy. As I am changing, though, a huge, afternoon thunderstorm hits us. Going up to the fort is going to be a little dirty, I think. I manage to finish dressing and head to the hair line, where I finally get a real wig and it looks good, if I do say so myself. The storm finally subsides and we are assembled outside. We are told that we are going inside the fort for another battle scene. While we are assembled, people are dirtying us up again. After that, we sit and wait in the holding area ... And wait ... And wait ...
The sun goes down and we haven't headed to the fort yet. I see the main actors from a distance as they mingle outside their trailers. We are told not to talk to them and I understand that is since we may interrupt their concentration, but it's still a shame that I can't tell them that I've admired their work. At 11PM we head up to the eating area for "lunch". This time it's beef stroganoff, and it's quite good really. We wait until close to 2AM before we finally march to the fort.
In response to an e-mail question ... It's hard to believe, but The Last of the Mohicans was nominated for only one Academy Award, that being BEST SOUND, which it won. Seems it should have been up for cinematography, certainly best soundtrack ... best picture? Of, course! Wes Studi seems deserving of best supporting actor, and maybe Madeleine Stowe for best actress ... if only for the beautiful sequence of expressions she goes through at the Fort after Hawkeye says, "I'm looking at you, Miss." It looks suspiciously like maybe this film didn't quite have the proper "connections".
Bill Bozic, a French artillery officer in the film, contributes this:
... During Mohicans, I recall Elvis' Hound Dog played over the loud speakers at the set on the hill/fort side of Lake James. Everyone got a laugh except the director, Michael Mann! The black cannon balls (basketballs painted black) which bounced after hitting the fort were also good for a laugh ...
Many people have asked about A LETTER FROM DANIEL DAY-LEWIS ... a Handwritten Note From Hawkeye Himself and how we managed to get him to write to us. Well, it isn't much of a story, but to satisfy the curious, here it is:
To the best of my recollection, it was sometime around August/September of 1993 when we received that letter. I had accumulated all these photos - all but the River Walk & parts of Canoes, which though I knew where they had been filmed, hadn't yet been able to visit - but upon discovering the staggering costs involved in self-publishing a 4-color process book ... well, it became apparent that there just wasn't going to be a book (I had yet to own a computer!). So, what to do? I had spent an enormous amount of time, energy & money already. Seemed I had to do something with these photos. I decided to send little photo albums to all the cast members. I started with four - Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, Madeleine Stowe & DDL. Put together an attractive package of the photos & a video I had spliced together of all the locations along with music & excerpts from the film. Schweig's agent says they never received it, May's came back, unopened, marked "Addressee Unknown", never heard from Stowe or her agent at all. It was only 2 weeks or so after I'd sent these packages out. I was out on a tractor, bush-hogging a pasture. Elaine came out & flagged me down. She was waving a letter at me. There was a look of surprise & excitement in her face. I shut down the tractor. There was this creamy colored envelope with that distinctive handwriting on it. I was absolutely amazed! I never expected a hand written personal reply. Probably no reply at all, maybe a form letter from the agent ... That's the kind of guy Daniel Day-Lewis is though. Read what he says. Besides being perhaps the best actor of our day, he's a humble, gracious, personable human being. Maybe he really is Hawkeye!
The Huron Village scene (transcribed on the Script Page) has a reference to the "Huron Castle". The term 'castle' was first used by the Dutch to designate principal Indian villages throughout the Hudson River valley region. Rather than the traditional image of a single fortressed building, the word was used to identify the fortified towns or strongholds of the Iroquois and Algonquians. Generations later, the inhabitants of New York were still referring to many Indian towns as castles and even today one can find Castleton-on-Hudson, south of Albany, on a New York map.
Someone asked: "What was the weapon Chingachgook used to kill Magua?" The rather imposing war club with which Magua was dispatched was typical of the type used by the 18th century Hudson Valley Indians. The Iroquois had two kinds of war clubs; the ga-je'-wa and the ga-ne-u'-ga-o-dus-ha. The first was usually made of ironwood with a large ball at the head. It was approximately two feet long, with the ball measuring five or six inches in diameter. The second, which means 'deer-horn war club', was an elaborately carved and painted club made of hardwood. Along the bottom edge was inserted a sharp-pointed deer's horn of about four inches. At both ends were ornamentations of feathers. This type would have inflicted a much deeper wound than the former, and certainly would have been very dangerous in close combat. Eventually, the deer horn was replaced with a steel or iron blade.
The Lenape had a similar ball-headed war club. It usually had a carved and inlaid face. The handle was shaped like a human leg, with a knee and a foot. There were variations of these types of war clubs used by the many northeastern woodland tribes. Chingachgook's weapon was very much like one of the aforementioned styles. There are many war clubs of the colonial period on display at various New York State museums.
While on the subject of weaponry, Hawkeye's famous rifle, Killdeer, deserves a mention. As he was a hunter, rather than a soldier, a long rifle better served his purpose. The lengthy musket became his trademark, hence his nickname by the French speaking Hurons, 'La Longue Carabine'; meaning 'the long rifle'.
Casting ... certainly one of the strong points of the film. Everyone just seems to fit so perfectly ...
Daniel Day-Lewis ... What can you say? Before seeing LOTM, we had never seen a DDL film, and consequently weren't all that impressed with his performance. After seeing an interview and hearing that strong Irish brogue, and then viewing My Left Foot, our opinion radically changed. DDL is a consummate actor ... his portrayal of Hawkeye is definitive. For moments in the film others find particularly effective, go to HAWKEYE MOMENTS.
Madeleine Stowe ... Undoubtedly her best performance (maybe because she kept her clothes on?) in a strong role. In her own words, "I feel like everything I tried to do is in there." Without question, she lends an air of dignity to the film. Stowe, at least in our minds, has become Cora. To see what scenes have made others feel the same way go to CORA MOMENTS.
Russell Means ... What a surprise! An activist turned actor (and an effective one!). Chingachgook played to perfection! Be sure to visit his site (see our MOHICANLAND LINKS ... To Other Sites page).
Eric Schweig & Jodhi May ... With so very few spoken lines, it is incredulous that they both come through strongly - via looks & body language - as the ill-fated, lovelorn couple, Uncas & Alice.
Steven Waddington ... Another very pleasant surprise. He exudes (supposed) British snootiness & superiority. Duncan could not have been played better. You've just got to feel sorry for the guy, though, in the end.
Edward Blatchford, Maurice Roeves, & Patrice Chereau ... Jack, Colonel Munro, & General Montcalm respectively ... The three all add an essence of authenticity to the film. Simply, it takes no imagination to feel as though they are who they say they are.
Wes Studi ... The ultimate villain ... and then again, he evokes sympathy from you. There is no way ANYONE could play Magua any better. How a nomination for an Academy Award was not forthcoming is beyond our comprehension.
Of course, there are other characters & extras who do a remarkable job of conveying the feel of the day to the viewer. Nobody in the film seems out of place ... 1757 does indeed seem to come alive. It really is a testament to the abilities of the director, producer, writer ... Michael Mann.
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Last Update: 10/10/1998