10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Last of the Mohicans
I first saw The Last of the Mohicans in early October of 1992. I was only nine years old and was absolutely obsessed with Native American culture. I had the good fortune to be born and raised in the Southern Ohio which has always embraced its American Indian cultures to a much greater extent than other regions east of the Mississippi. I saw movies in “Shawnee Square”, I went bowling at “Shawnee Lanes”, visited the Feast of the Flowering Moon, and saw the amazing outdoor drama Tecumseh multiple times a year. Seeing me walking through the neighborhood with a toy tomahawk and fake dagger on my belt was a very normal occurrence. It was no surprise, then, that The Last of the Mohicans immediately became among my favorite films of all time. I couldn’t get enough of it in those days and I still adore seeing new and behind the scenes footage today, so allow me to share with you 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Last of the Mohicans.
1. The Fort William Henry that we see on screen was actually built by the crew. 40 acres of lumber were felled to build the fort and the production probably spent about one million dollars putting the fort together.
2. Daniel Day Lewis lived as his character would have lived in order to prepare for his role as Hawkeye. He hunted and fished for food and lived in the forest for several months prior to filming.
3. Lewis also trained with a Special Operations trainer in Alabama before filming took place. He was taught to fire rifles, shotguns, and pistols along with hand to hand combat. Once he had learned modern-day weaponry, they reverted back to the weapons used for the film and Lewis was taught to live in the wilderness and uses muskets and to fight with knives and tomahawks.
4. Director Michael Mann wanted to cast Russell Means and Dennis Banks in the film after seeing them in videos while they were involved in the American Indian Movement at the Wounded Knee Incident, South Dakota. Means would play the adopted father of Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Banks played Ongewasgone.
5. While the film takes place in New York (which was the frontier at the time) much of it was filmed in North and South Carolina. Some of the footage was taken at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC because the trees were planted over 100 years ago and closest to the forestry of the day.
6. Michael Mann would not let the actors use stand-ins during the shoot so not only are most of the set pieces actually real, but the actors are all there. The one major set piece that was constructed was the cave in which the Huron chase the survivors of the massacre into. They were unable to find one suitable to use and they had to build one to specifications.
7. The tattoo that Magua has on his face was taken directly from the famous painting The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. It depicts the death of the British General at the Battle of Quebec but famously shows a very detailed Iroquois warrior crouched next to his dying body.
8. Daniel Day Lewis had won an Oscar three years earlier for My Left Foot but had never acted in a big Hollywoood Blockbuster so he was a bit of an unknown to audiences and the studio was worried that this film might not be the hit they had hoped for.
9. The scenes of the siege of Ft. William Henry were shot over many nights. Getting the lighting and the shots of the cannon firing were difficult and they ended up firing flaming basketballs from the mortars to get the shots to look right. In one long night of shooting, Director Michael Mann screamed at the crew to turn out a large light not realizing that it was actually the sun rising over the trees.
10. Actor Eric Schweig would later go on to play the Iroquois leader Joseph Brant in the movie The Broken Chain. Joseph Brant would become one of the most famous Indian leaders during the American Revolution because of his raids and brutal tactics against Colonists in the Mohawk Valley and in New York.