Daniel Day-Lewis is well known for going to extremes in preparation for his roles. For this film he lived in the wilderness where his character might have lived, hunting and fishing and living off the land for several months prior to shooting.
Many long nights were spent filming the siege scenes. Due to the expansive area involved, loudspeakers were installed around the battlefield and fort so directions could be easily given to the hundreds of cast and crew. One night after many long hours, Mann was heard to shout over the speakers, "What's that orange light? Turn out that orange light!" After a pause another voice (an A.D.?) came over the speakers stating, "That's the SUN, Michael."
By most accounts, there were on average at least 20 takes for each set-up. Such lengthy shootings (and the ensuing costs) would account for 20th Century Fox sending a Rep to do nothing except stand behind Mann and say, "That's enough Michael, move on."
Although the Ft. William Henry massacre actually took place, historical fact differs somewhat from historical fiction. A Col. Munro was in command at the fort and did indeed surrender to Montcalm when General Webb could not arrive in time to reinforce him. The attack by the Hurons after the surrender was directed at the colonial militia and its Indian allies. Munro and the British regulars were at the head of the column under the protection of French soldiers and did not know that the column had been attacked until they arrived at Ft. Edward. James Fenimore Cooper based his novel on reports from survivors of the attack. The British used the attack to stir up the colonials to join in the fight against the French. In all versions of the movie except this one, Munro survives and is saved by Hawkeye. Munroe survived in real life as well.
Director Mann wouldn't allow the actors to use stand-ins.
There are three versions with three different running times: the original 1992 release 112 minute version, the 2001 117 minute director's expanded version, and a 2010 director's definitive cut at 114 minutes.
One of the reasons Michael Mann decided to shoot the film in North Carolina instead of New York was that he felt the woods of North Carolina looked more like the old-growth forests of the Adirondacks, which still show evidence of logging during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the scenes were shot at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt's North Carolina estate; the forest in the estate was carefully planned and planted about 100 years ago.
Hawkeye's real name in the novel is Natty Bumppo, but was changed to Nathaniel Poe for the film to avoid titters from the audience.
Hawkeye's rifle is a beautiful example of the classic Pennsylvania long rifle - which is all too frequently misnamed the "Kentucky" rifle. Considered by many to be among the most beautiful firearms ever crafted, Pennsylvania long rifles often feature a small lock, long, slim, graceful lines, and beautifully carved "tiger" maple stocks. The dramatically down-turned "Roman-nosed" stock is a hallmark of the Allentown-Bethlehem area school, the rifle in the film being very similar to works created by several well-known gunsmiths from that tradition in 18th and early 19th century. Hermann Rupp, John Rupp, and Jacob Kuntz were among some of the well-known practitioners of this style; an excellent and gorgeous example of the Kuntz's craftsmanship can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
While filming the canoe scenes, the canoe always tipped. F. Curtis Gaston, Soldier Number One, recalls having to save the upset Jodhi May from the cold waters.
Jodhi May's mother was on set and wouldn't let there be a real "love scene" between Jodhi and Eric Schweig.
During the siege scenes, large mortars are seen to fire huge cannon balls at the fort. On one day while attempting to capture the projectiles arcing through the air, basketballs spray painted black were actually fired from the mortars. Problem was, most of them either burned up in the barrel or briefly flamed in the air for several feet before falling to earth.
The film was originally scheduled for a summer 1992 release, as the teaser posters said, but when Michael Mann's first version clocked in at three hours, he was told by Fox to cut the film down and the release was postponed to September. Mann was never happy with the resulting two-hour version, feeling he had not had enough time to properly trim it, and so Fox allowed him to re-edit it entirely for the 1999 DVD release. Although only a few minutes longer, the new version features minor changes throughout the film. It is Mann's preferred version and the only one available on DVD in the US.
The cougar used in the film now lives in Hollywild Animal Park in South Carolina.
Jodhi May has said that much of her role disappeared on the cutting room floor.
Register to update information, save favorites, post photos, news stories and comments.