In preparation for his starring role in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Daniel Day-Lewis built a canoe, learned to, hunt and skin animals, and perfected the use of a 12-pound flintlock gun, which he carted with him everywhere even, on one occasion, to a Christmas dinner. In fact, he lived off the land for several months before shooting even started and trained with a US Army colonel to develop his shooting and hand-to-hand combat skills. The strenuous shooting schedule, however, took a toll on his health and by the time the picture wrapped, he had been treated for claustrophobia and mild hallucinations.
Incidentally, those who have read James Fenimore Cooper’s novel on which this picture is based, will know that Hawkeye’s real name was Natty Bumppo. It was changed to Nathaniel Poe for the movie to avoid titters from the audience. Cooper loosely based his book on the capture and rescue of Jemima Boone and the Callaway girls who were taken by a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party and rescued by a party of settlers led by Jemima’s father, the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone.
The Huron attack on the Fort William Henry column
Over 900 Native Americans were recruited from all over the United States for the picture, most of them from the Cherokee tribe. The Fort William Henry massacre, depicted towards the end of the film, actually took place, although the attack by the Hurons was directed only at the colonial militia and their Indian allies. Colonel Munro and the British regulars were at the head of the column and under the protection of the French soldiers. History suggests that the British did not learn of the attack until later, when they reached Fort Edward, but surely they must have heard the shooting?
The Red Brick Bridge on the Biltmore Estate
The magnificent forest settings for this picture were mostly filmed at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s North Carolina estate. The estate had been planned and planted very carefully around a hundred years ago and best- resembled the old-growth forests of the Adirondacks. The forests of New York State showed too much evidence of the late 19th and early 20th century logging to be of use. The beautiful red brick bridge crossed over at the start of the picture is also part of the Biltmore estate. During the Fort William Henry siege scenes in which large French mortars fired huge cannonballs at the fortress, director Michael Mann wanted to show the projectiles arcing through the sky, so he had basketballs sprayed with black paint to double as cannonballs. Unfortunately, most of them burned up in the barrels or briefly flamed in the air before falling to the ground and the idea had to be abandoned.
Russell Means as Chingachgook
Russell Means portrayed the ‘last of the Mohicans’, Chingachgook, and was a fine casting choice. Born an Oglala/Lakota/Sioux Indian, he was the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and was prominent during their 1973 stand-off with the US Government at Wounded Knee. It is refreshing to hear that he preferred to be called an ‘Indian’, rather than the, so-called, politically correct ‘Native American’. As Russell was known to argue, ‘Everyone born in America is a native American.’ And, of course, he was quite right. Sadly, he passed away from oesophageal cancer in 2012, just short of his 73rd birthday.
Porky’s (1981) was the top movie in the USA for eight weeks in 1982, second only to the sixteen weeks that Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial resided at the # 1 box-office spot. In fact, this little juvenile sex comedy was the fifth highest grossing film of the year at the North American box-office and became the first ever movie to gross over one million pounds at the Irish box-office. And this despite it being initially banned and only released after appeal. It was extremely controversial for showing an erect penis protruding through a peep-hole in the tiled wall of the girls’ shower block at a high school! Film critics generally rated Porky’s as one of the worst pictures of 1982 but, as often happens, the public around the world loved it.
Alex Karras as Sheriff Wallace
Susan Clark as Cherry Forever
Kim Cattrall as Miss Honeywell
Husband and wife team Alex Karras and Susan Clark feature in Porky’s. Susan plays the prostitute Cherry Forever and Karras is ‘Porky’s’ brother, Sheriff Wallace. Fans of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974) will no doubt remember Alex’s performance as Mongo, the brute who punches out a horse in one much talked about scene. A former defensive blocker for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, he suffered from dementia in his final years, possibly exacerbated by head injuries he sustained in his football career. He and Susan had been married for 32 years when he passed away in 2012. Kim Cattrall (future star of Sex and the City) agreed to play Miss Honeywell because she was just getting started and needed to pay her rent. She fully expected the movie to sink without trace but, instead, it took off like a rocket and she was earmarked as a sexpot from then onwards.
Thirteen Days (2000) is a fine drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and how it was resolved by the Kennedy Administration. President John F. Kennedy often set up recording machines during meetings at the White House, so much of the dialogue from the movie is taken directly from his tapes. Not everything worked in the movie, however. Kevin Costner’s attempt at a Boston accent is so notoriously bad that a ‘Kevin Costner accent’ is now an accepted slang term for a non-Bostonian’s unsuccessful attempt at a Boston accent! On the other hand, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp, who portrayed Jack and Bobby Kennedy respectively, often engaged each other in off-screen arguments in their Kennedy personas, to help keep themselves in character.
JFK & RFK
History and this movie tell us that Bobby Kennedy championed the ‘blockade’ strategy that ultimately carried the day. Consequently, he is everybody’s hero. The man who saved the world from nuclear holocaust. It should be acknowledged, however, that, in the early stages of the crisis, he was in favour of a full scale invasion of Cuba! Most of the ‘hawks’ in the Kennedy administration wanted to call for some kind of air strike to take out the missiles already in Cuba, but the ‘super-hawks’ wanted a full-scale invasion and, initially, Bobby was certainly one of them. It should also be acknowledged that as late as August 1962, JFK’s administration was still planning an invasion of Cuba. Evidently, the ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco had taught the President little.