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."
Over nine hundred Native Americans from all over the United States were employed for the shoot most notably Cherokee tribes.
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."
Daniel Day-Lewis had only done independent movies at this point in his career. This was his first big-budget Hollywood movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis trained with a U.S. Army colonel to develop his shooting and hand-to-hand combat skills.
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.
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.
The main theme of the movie is taken from the tune "The Gael" by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean on his 1990 album The Search.
Wes Studi claimed in a 1996 interview that he and several of the other Native American actors in the film spoke their lines in their own native languages. Thus, in many instances, such as the scene in the Huron village where Magua argues with the Huron Sachem, Studi speaks his native Cherokee, which is mostly unintelligible to Mike Phillips, a native Mohawk speaker. As well, supposed Mohican dialog between Chingachgook and his son Uncas, features Lakota Sioux Russell Means speaking unintelligibly with Northern Inuit Eric Schweig.
Jodhi May's mother was on set and wouldn't let there be a real "love scene" between Jodhi and Eric Schweig due to her age.
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.
Cinematographer Dante Spinotti used minimal lighting to give the movie a natural look.
Daniel Day-Lewis' commitment to his role and the strenuous shooting schedule took a toll on his health. He was treated for claustrophobia and "mild hallucinations" after this movie wrapped.
Madeleine Stowe was initially reluctant to star in this movie. It was only after she realized it was a love story that she agreed to audition.
Some of the cast and crew spent a month in the North Carolina wilderness together before shooting began.
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.
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.
Michael Mann has said watching The Last of the Mohicans (1936) when he was young was his inspiration for the film.
Daniel Day-Lewis is alleged to have quipped at the local NC airport to a fellow Mohican player, "I quit smoking, but this film has made me start again".
The red-brick bridge that's crossed over in the beginning of the movie is at Biltmore Estate Asheville, NC.
In Cooper's book, the character Cora was of mixed race-her father being Col.Munro and her mother, a woman of African heritage, though not a slave. Madeline Stowe is of English, German, and Costa Rican ancestry.
Michael Mann re-shot the waterfall scene nine days before showing the movie to reviewers.
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 arcking 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.
When the film was pushed back from its original summer release in 1992 to September, Composer Randy Edelman was brought in to provide additional music after Trevor Jones could not return to the film due to other commitments after having written about fifty minutes of music to rework his score from the film's original three hour cut. Edelman would provide about twenty-eight-and-a-half minutes. Edelman was then in charge of assembling the music for the new cut of the film which clocked in at about 114 minutes which included Jones' music, Edelman's, and all the source material by Daniel Lanois and Clannad. Jones and Edelman did not work together on the score which is why their names on the credits are separate from one another. The subsequent soundtrack album also represents this as Jones' music is separated from Edelman's as the album's first half is Jones' score followed by Edelman's and ending with Clannad's song to round it out. All told with their musical contributions to the film, Jones and Edelman's score combined round out to approximately seventy-eight minutes without the source music.
Several of the set pieces, including the immense Ft. William Henry, were built with the appropriate materials and on location.
The drummer during the march just before the attack by the Huron war party has "Nec Aspera Terrant" embroidered on his hat, which means "Difficulties be damned" (other meanings or translations are often used for this motto, it must be noted.) Sometimes it can mean no fear on earth.
Montcalm orders a "Capitaine de Bougainville" to read the captured dispatch from Gen. Webb to Col. Munro. This is almost certainly Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, a French nobleman, soldier, diplomat, and explorer. After serving as Montcalm's aide-de-camp during the siege of Ft William Henry during the Seven Years' War, Bougainville went on to distinguish himself by organizing the relocation of the Acadians to Louisiana, commanding the first circumnavigation by a French fleet, and serving with distinction in the French Navy during the American Revolution.
Madeleine Stowe appeared in a TV movie as another heroine based on character from a James Fenimore Cooper novel, "The Deerslayer" (1978) which along with "Last of the Mohicans" is part of "The Leatherstocking Tales" with the main character of Natty Bumppo who is referred to as Hawkeye, Deerslayer, and Pathfinder in various books within the series.
Mike Phillips character is listed as "Sachem" in the end credits. This is not a name; it is a title that means "elder", "wise one", or "chief". The character's actual name is "Tamenund", although this name is never used in the film.
Renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser is the fiddler on the soundtrack though he is not credited.
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.
Pete Postlethwaite, one of the English soldiers when the girls arrives at the fort, also plays Daniel Day-Lewis' father in In the Name of the Father (1993).
According to Randy Edelman's 1996 Film Score Monthly interview, he came on board because of creative differences between Trevor Jones and Michael Mann which forced Jones off the project. "The movie was over budget, there was a mess with the studio, etc. The only reason Morgan Creek got the rights to not just the music and the album but all the overseas rights is because the whole situation was out of control. Daniel Day-Lewis was a big box-office star having won the best actor Oscar only two years earlier for 'My Left Foot'."
At 1hr 38m, the Wilhelm Scream can be heard as Hawkeye bludgeons an enemy in the face.
Richard E. Grant and Hugh Grant were considered for the role of Maj. Duncan Heyward.
In 1976, Warner Bros had announced a new version of " Last of the Mohicans " with Lindsay Anderson directing, but it failed to materialise.