The Last of the Mohicans

USA 1992, 115 mins
Director: Michael Mann

Michael Mann on ‘The Last of the Mohicans’

Do you see Hawkeye in the same terms as the protagonists of your earlier films, Thief or Manhunter , as someone who, due to his special abilities, is coerced into serving an order that is at odds with his own personal code?

Yes, except that I wouldn’t call Hawkeye’s code personal: it’s simply the value system and mores of a culture he more or less grew up in, which is Mahican. We don’t know much about Mahican child-raising; we know a lot more about the Iroquois, their neighbours, so l borrowed freely from them. In coming up with who is Hawkeye? How does he walk, talk? How does he feel?, we had to have a basis: what was he born into? What was his childhood like? So we started with a background, based on anthropological work, which was primarily a mixture of Mohawk and Mahican, complicated by the degree of acculturation they would have had.

How did this kind of anthropology come into play in the story?

It comes up in how Daniel Day-Lewis plays Hawkeye – this man from another planet who Cora meets and with whom she falls desperately in love. Hawkeye is a wilderness frontier hunter and trapper and he lives in a physical world in which he sees everything, everything has meaning and he is constantly searching for meaning. That makes him a very direct person to be dealing with, so, for example, when Cora says to him, ‘What are you looking at, sir?’ the mode of courtship and his wilderness identity makes him look her in the face and say, ‘I’m looking at you, miss.’

What is The Last of the Mohicans about, from your point of view?

I wanted to have the scale of a geopolitical conflict – the ethnic and religious conflicts, the struggle of white imperialism on a grassroots level, the conditions of the struggle for survival of the colonial population, and the struggle between the Euramerican and European powers and the American Indian population. That’s the outer frame, that’s the scale of the piece.

At the same time, I wanted an emotional intensity that came from the stories of Hawkeye, his father and brother, from each of their points of view, and from the Munro daughters and the obvious central love story, which I wanted to be very intimate. It occurred to me fairly early on that if you worked hard enough and were smart enough and didn’t make too many mistakes, you could get the large picture, but that the trick was to get it there and have immediate emotional intensity; the trick to having it feel real was going to be that emotional connection.

What did you hope to achieve in the film visually?

I was influenced by Beirstadt’s landscape painting, in terms both of compositions and of what the place looked like. Before I got involved I thought his paintings were romantic, fanciful Hudson valley landscapes, that forests don’t look like this. But then I realised that they did look like this, they just don’t look like this anymore.

Colour has always been a key issue for you. What concerns did you have in this respect, aside from what was dictated by the locations?

Objective reality outstripped me, and I brought it back to a more conservative palette. If you were an American Indian and grew up in the forest, so all you saw were brown and green, and then some Dutch or Swedish traders showed up with reflective objects or the colour red, you’d go for it in a big way. The indications we have from paintings is of a level of expression among the American Indians that was radical and more chromatic, more outlandish than anything I had. They would go into battle naked, with brilliant colours, the heads of birds, on their penises.

How did the environment affect the style?

It was terribly inspirational – and it was fleeting. Cities don’t change: if I want to shoot a street at night it’s going to look more or less the same from the moment it gets dark. In the forest, by the time you get set up to shoot something you’ve seen, it’s gone. The light has shifted, the wind has shifted, the magic has vanished. I was getting inspired by things that were so transient I couldn’t follow them.

There are a number of instances in the forest where you composed in depth, on several visual layers.

I liked that. I was always looking for depth; I wanted to capture the sense of the forest as a system which Hawkeye reads and operates within. It’s not alien to him, he doesn’t have to survive it, he is it. Daniel and I did a training regime that resulted in that conceptual re-orientation, as well as picking up all the physical skills and, equally important, the attitude that the physical skills generate.

Your films succeed in hijacking the viewer’s nervous system so completely that it becomes, at least for me, emotionally overwhelming at a certain point. That’s why style is such an issue.

It’s not style. You’re getting at the reason why I love making pictures – it’s the intensity of the experience, the power of film to make you dream, to take over your nervous system and sweep you away. It’s because I love being swept away and I love the power of this medium to do that, intellectually and emotionally. But it only works when what things mean and the way they feel are all operating in total harmony. Style just gets you seven minutes of attention, that’s it.

Michael Mann interviewed by Gavin Smith, Sight and Sound, November 1992

Director: Michael Mann
Production Companies: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Morgan Creek Productions
Executive Producer: James G. Robinson
Producers: Michael Mann, Hunt Lowry
Production Associate: Bonnie Arnold
Supervising Producer: Ned Dowd
Production Accountant: Jennifer Freed
Post-production Accountant: Doris Hellmann
Production Co-ordinators: Sondra Dee Boyachek, Judi Rosner
2nd Unit Production Co-ordinator: Mary Lou Devlin
2nd Unit Production Manager: Whitney Green
Unit Production Managers: Ned Dowd, Ellen Rauch
Location Manager: George C. Bosley
Location Manager (North Carolina): Michael Bigham
Post-production Supervisor: Judith Blume
2nd Unit Directors: Mickey Gilbert, Gusmano Cesaretti
1st Assistant Director: Michael Waxman
2nd Assistant Director: Daniel Stillman
2nd Unit 2nd Assistant Director: Cyndie Williams
Script Supervisor: Alan Greedy
Casting: Bonnie Timmermann
Casting (London): Susie Figgis
Screenplay: Michael Mann, Christopher Crowe
Adaptation: John L. Balderston, Paul Perez, Daniel Moore
Based on the screenplay by: Philip Dunne
Based on the novel by: James Fenimore Cooper
Director of Photography: Dante Spinotti
Additional Photography: Doug Milsome
2nd Unit Director of Photography: Jerry G. Callaway
Camera Operators: Don Reddy, Michael McGowan
Key Grip: Chunky Huse
2nd Unit Key Grip: Tom May
Steadicam Operators: Kyle Rudolph, Bob Ulland
Gaffer: Daniel Eccleston
Stills Photography: Frank Connor
Special Effects Co-ordinators: Tom Fisher, Trix Unlimited
2nd Unit Special Effects Co-ordinator: Henry Millar
Editors: Dov Hoenig, Arthur Schmidt
Additional Editors: Jere Huggins, Wayne Wahrman
Production Designer: Wolf Kroeger
Visual Consultants: Gusmano Cesaretti, Lee Teter
Art Directors: Richard Holland, Robert Guerra
Set Designers: Karl Martin, Masako Masuda
Set Decorators: Jim Erickson, James V. Kent
Property Masters: Ron Downing, Mickey Pugh
Construction Co-ordinator: Anthony Lattanzio
Costume Designer: Elsa Zamparelli
Costume Supervisor: Jennifer Butler
Military Costume Adviser: Richard E. La Motte
Key Make-up Artist: Peter Robb-King
Prosthetic Make-up Artists: Evan Campbell, Nicholas Dudman, Vincent Guastini, Christopher Johnson, Neal B. Kelly, Joe Macchia
Music: Trevor Jones, Randy Edelman
Additional Music: Daniel Lanois
Sound Design/Supervision: Lon E. Bender
Sound Mixer: Simon Kaye
Re-recording Mixers: Paul Massey, Doug Hemphill, Mark Smith, Chris Jenkins
Sound Effects Supervisor: Larry Kemp
Military Technical Adviser: Captain Dale Dye
Stunt Co-ordinator: Mickey Gilbert

Daniel Day-Lewis (Hawkeye)
Madeleine Stowe (Cora Munro)
Russell Means (Chingachgook)
Eric Schweig (Uncas)
Jodhi May (Alice Munro)
Steven Waddington (Major Duncan Heyward)
Wes Studi (Magua)
Maurice Roëves (Colonel Edmund Munro)
Patrice Chéreau (General Montcalm)
Edward Blatchford (Jack Winthrop)
Terry Kinney (John Cameron)
Tracey Ellis (Alexandra Cameron)
Justin M. Rice (James Cameron)
Dennis J. Banks (Ongewasgone)
Pete Postlethwaite (Captain Beams)
Colm Meaney (Major Ambrose)
Mac Andrews (General Webb)
Malcolm Storry (Phelps)
David Schofield (sergeant major)
Eric D. Sandgren (Coureur de Bois)
Mike Phillips (Sachem)
Mark A. Baker (colonial man)
Dylan Baker (Bougainville)
Tim Hopper (Ian)
Gregory Zaragoza (Abenaki chief)
Scott Means (Abenaki warrior)
William J. Bozic Jr (French artillery officer)
Patrick Fitzgerald (Webb’s adjutant)
Mark Joy (Henri)
Steve Keator (colonial representative)
Don Tilley (colonial 1)
Thomas E. Cummings (colonial 2)
David Mark Farrow (guard)
Ethan James Fugate (French sappeur)
F. Curtis Gaston (soldier 1)
Eric A. Hurley (soldier 2)
Jared Harris (British lieutenant)
Michael McConnell (sentry)
Thomas John McGowan (rich merchant)
Alice Papineau (Huron woman)
Mark J. Maracle (Sharitarish)
Clark Heathcliffe (regimental sergeant major)
Sebastian Roché (Martin)
Joe Finnegan (redcoat 2)
Sheila Adams Barnhill (humming woman)

USA 1992©
115 mins

The Trial
Mon 25 Mar 12:20; Mon 8 Apr 12:20; Thu 18 Apr 17:25
The Gospel According to Matthew Il Vangelo secondo Matteo
Tue 26 Mar 20:20; Fri 29 Mar 17:50
Wed 27 Mar 18:15 (+ intro by Arike Oke, Executive Director of Knowledge, Learning & Collections); Sat 6 Apr 13:15; Fri 12 Apr 21:00
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Thu 28 Mar 18:10; Sun 7 Apr 12:50; Tue 23 Apr 12:00
Little Women
Sat 30 Mar 13:15; Tue 9 Apr 12:20; Sat 27 Apr 20:30
The Last Temptation of Christ
Sat 30 Mar 19:50; Sun 14 Apr 17:30
The Leopard Il gattopardo
Sun 31 Mar 17:00; Tue 16 Apr 13:30; Sun 28 Apr 19:30
The Grapes of Wrath
Mon 1 Apr 20:10; Sat 20 Apr 15:45
Pather Panchali
Tue 2 Apr 20:30; Mon 22 Apr 18:00; Tue 30 Apr 12:10
The Heiress
Wed 3 Apr 18:05 (+ intro by Ruby McGuigan, BFI Programme and Acquisitions); Sat 6 Apr 20:30; Mon 15 Apr 20:45
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Thu 4 Apr 20:30; Wed 10 Apr 18:10 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large)
The Last of the Mohicans
Fri 5 Apr 18:10; Sun 21 Apr 20:20
Women in Love
Thu 11 Apr 20:20; Sat 20 Apr 13:00; Fri 26 Apr 14:40
Beau Travail
Sat 13 Apr 13:20; Fri 19 Apr 20:45; Wed 24 Apr 18:10 (+ intro)
Great Expectations
Wed 17 Apr 17:45 (+ intro by Jade Evans, AHRC REACH PhD student with QMUL and BFI); Thu 25 Apr 12:00
Ordet The Word
Sat 27 Apr 13:15; Mon 29 Apr 14:40
Wed 1 May 18:10 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator); Fri 3 May 21:00; Tue 14 May 12:30; Sun 26 May 13:00
Henry V
Thu 2 May 14:40; Thu 9 May 20:15; Thu 30 May 14:30
The Magic Flute Trollflöjten
Fri 3 May 12:00; Fri 24 May 20:25; Tue 28 May 14:30
Pandora’s Box Die Büchse der Pandora
Sat 4 May 15:10; Fri 17 May 18:00; Sat 25 May 13:10; Fri 31 May 14:30
West Side Story
Sun 5 May 19:30; Thu 16 May 14:30
Mon 6 May 20:20; Sat 11 May 14:45; Tue 21 May 14:30
A Streetcar Named Desire
Tue 7 May 12:10; Sat 18 May 20:30; Fri 24 May 14:50; Sun 26 May 17:40
Wed 8 May 18:10 (+ intro); Sun 12 May 20:40; Mon 27 May 12:30
His Girl Friday
Fri 10 May 18:10; Sun 19 May 20:30; Thu 23 May 18:30; Wed 29 May 18:00 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large)
Beautiful Thing
Mon 13 May 20:40; Wed 22 May 18:20 (+ intro by Simon McCallum, BFI National Archive Curator); Thu 30 May 12:10
Bluebeard’s Castle Herzog Blaubarts Burg
Wed 15 May 18:10 (+ intro by Alex Prideaux, Marketing and Events Manager – Our Screen Heritage); Fri 31 May 18:10
Mon 20 May 18:05; Thu 30 May 20:30

Never miss an issue with Sight and Sound, the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine. Subscribe from just £25*
*Price based on a 6-month print subscription (UK only). More info:

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email