THE WORLD OF SOLDIER #2
Soldier #2, Eric Hurley, sat with us in our home for a few hours the night of April 25, 1998. We expected to do an interview with him. Eric made our jobs very easy, as all we had to do, basically, was prompt him. The information then spewed forth. We believe that you will find this "interview" with this most personable, humorous & genuine young man THE definitive LOTM tale to date. Enjoy!
It should also be noted that these perceptions and opinions are those of Eric, gained by first hand interaction with the entire filming process.
Eric Hurley at Linville Falls in a Dec. '97 photo.
MOHICAN PRESS: We'll start with ... Just set the stage. Where were you, what were you doing, when you first heard that there were to be casting calls for the filming of The Last of the Mohicans?
ERIC HURLEY: I'd been in music for many years and wanted to put out an album. There were a couple of things I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to be in a movie and I wanted to put out an album. And, I thought, "Just dreams." Word got out. One of the guys that I had graduated with at Freedom [High School], he was one of the dancers in Dirty Dancing [filmed on Lake Lure]. I thought, "Well, how come I never heard of it before hand?" It was not in the newspapers or anything. So, I guess, having that happen, all of the newspapers just went berserk about having another movie coming to town. As hick as I am ... Last of the Mohicans ... I thought it was just a Looney Tunes cartoon! They have this Indian fight and he says "I'm the last of the Mohicans." And then this other Indian pops up and pops him on the head, and he says, "No, me the last of the Mohicans!" Gosh, how dumb can I be?
MP: So, the fact that it was to be The Last of the Mohicans had no bearing on anything for you. It could have been any movie?
EH: Uh uh. No ... Any movie! ... Everybody's feeling was, if you're going to be in the movie, you have to play an Indian. There's no other parts in the world but an Indian. Honest to God! The people at Broughton [State Hospital], where I was working ... they all heard about it, and they were all asking me, "Are you gonna try out for this?" And I figured, "What the heck? What have I got to lose?" The newspaper come out and I read the little article ... they were needing beaucoup of long-haired people to look Indian. So, the date was like April 18th , somewhere in that neighborhood. So, I told the boss that I wanted off, and me and Cathy [Eric's wife] were going to go over there ... and a couple of other people over at Broughton, they were were going to go over, too. Now, they were big into re-enacting. They knew more about what was going to happen than I did. I had no idea. We went over there and we stood in line. Went through all this, and I thought, "There ain't NO way!" I mean there were SO many people there. I've never seen so many people in Morganton [NC], congregating in one place, except at the county fair. I thought, "One person? Me? Out of all these people? I ain't got a chance!" I went through the whole rigamaroll and, boom, they called me up while I was at work. Changed my whole world!
MP: So, you went down there to where all those people were together at the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium, and what was the process like?
EH: Well, you stood in line forever. It was pouring rain. We were standing outside. There was a long line in. We just couldn't figure out what we was doing there. We had some little old snapshot picture. Cathy & I had one picture ... it had both of us in it. We took it over there ...
MP: Were you asked to bring a photo?
EH: Yeah, they did say to bring a picture. Then, we're waiting & waiting, and we finally get into the auditorium. And it's just absolutely packed full! We were not the first group, and we weren't the last group. We go in and this guy starts rattling off this mess about how to fill this thing out. It was like a job application. It asked you specific questions about acting. "Are you a re-enactor? "Can you speak any other languages besides English?" "Can you travel?" ... And he's just shouting off exactly what to do. I mean this guy was just going. It was step by step. "Put your name here!" "Put your address here!" I'm thinking, "How idiotic does he think we are?" We might be Southerners, but we're not stupid! [laughs] Anyway, we go through this, and ... Re-enactor! That just got me! I could not figure out what a re-enactor was. And, nobody around me knew what a re-enactor was. I asked one of the assistants as she came around, and she flat out told me, "If you don't know what it is, you're not one!" And that was the end of that. And, I thought, "OK! Thank you!" These people, they were obviously not from here, and they were, most of them, the RUDEST people you've ever met in your life! They had one objective, and that was it. You don't change it in any way, shape or form. So, we finish all that, we're standing in line ... we go back out, and there's this little old folding table, and we hand all of our stuff in. Theresa Phillips was the lady's name, and she said, "We need to take another picture of you, because we need to separate the two. Stand up against this wall." There's this big old brick wall, and I'm still thinking, "There ain't no way!" She was just really nice. In all this rudeness, here's this one lady who's just absolutely bending over backwards to help people. Just as sweet as she could be. She's just making you really feel good ... So, I sat up on the stool and she pulls out this Polaroid. I'm just feeling, "What do I know? I'm just this dumb Southerner, this redneck." They just really put you down, almost, and then to have this one person pick you up ... So, we're ready to leave, and all this mess didn't help, and I'm just thinking, "This is the biggest waste of time." It was nice to see everything though. A couple of weeks later, they call you up, and I mean they want you THEN! I'm like, "What do I do? I've got a kid, and we've got to get into a house ..." I didn't know what to do. I was lost. Then the hospital director for our unit gave me this long story about his friend and Tom's Potato Chips, and how he made it big, and that HE had had the chance! He said, "Do you want to live the rest of your life thinking, ' What if?'" So, that's how I said, "We'll take the chance."
MP: There was no other interview? They just said, "We want you," after that first procedure?
EH: Yeah, Theresa Phillips kept saying, "The Director hand-picked you! He's been staying up for these last couple of weeks, and he HAND-PICKED you!" I'm thinking, "Right!" I thought it was bull, but I found out later it was true. That's the way Michael Mann is ... he's a very dedicated director. Pays very close attention to detail. But, at the time I thought some assistant's assistant's assistant said, "Yeah, let's just get this guy." But now, I'm pretty confident that he did pick me.
MP: So, now you're hired, but you didn't just go from there to the film ...
EH: Oh, no! They wanted us to meet in Asheville to go through all the rigamaroll of what's going to happen. They told us that we were going to go through boot camp.
MP: Were all the extras here at this time?
EH: No, just the basic, what boiled down to, the non-re-enacting 35th Cadre.
MP: You were hired specifically for the 35th?
MP: You're talking 30-40 guys?
EH: 15, because it was half and half. Half civilian, basically say, and half re-enactors. People who had already been doing this sort of thing.
MP: If Michael Mann picked you for the 35th, based on your photo, then he must have been looking for a specific look.
EH: Yes. And, I'm sure someone along the line probably said, "Look, you've got to get some people in here who know what they're doing, otherwise it's going to take forever for these guys that have never done anything like this to learn anything." The re-enactors, at first, kind of led us along as to what was happening in history, because most of us, we were headbangers ... didn't care about nothing but making our little dollar and going home. They kind of led us along as to what had happened back then and why we were dressing up in this heavy stupid wool all summer long, sweating our guts out. These guys must have been nuts. I mean, shed the coat, shed the vest, and just wear our shirts and our knickers!
MP: What was the pay?
EH: To start, it was $50 a day. That's what we were told we were going to be paid. That lasted for about 3 or 4 ... well, it didn't last through our boot camp. We got a raise to $75 before we finished boot camp. The first day we started filming, it was $100 a day.
MP: That was just the Cadre? We're not talking ALL extras?
EH: No, that was just us, that we knew. We did find out later that the Indian core, which was our equivalent, by the time they started filming, they were making $150 a day. Those of us who had parts [credited parts], there were four that I know of, we ended up making $434 a day, which is the minimum wage for S.A.G. [Screen Actors Guild].
MP: That's down the line, as the filming progresses?
EH: Right, WAY down the line.
MP: Curtis Gaston [Soldier #1] was telling us, at one point, that he basically went from an extra, to a featured extra, to a scripted cast member ...
EH: We were ALWAYS featured extras. We were never just a plain extra. That's what I was told. When they called me, they told me, on the phone, "You will be a featured extra." I said, "OK, what's the big deal?" I couldn't have told you what an EXTRA was! What do I do? Stand around and wait for somebody to die? Then I'm there, because I'm an extra? In jury, you've got an extra. They don't do nothing until somebody gets sick ... [laughs] So, I asked her, "What's a featured extra?" And she says, "Well, your face is going to be in front of the camera all the time. You don't have any acting experience, you are not a credited member, so they call you a 'featured extra'.'"
MP: You're hired as a featured extra, making $50 a day, and you go off to boot camp. Had you ever fired a flintlock before?
EH: No, I had cap and ball, but not a flintlock ... which is a lot different. There's a hesitation there, when it fires ...
MP: So, you had fired a muzzle loader before?
EH: Yes, but a cap & ball, there's not as much hesitation as there is with a flintlock. You kind of pull the trigger and then, "Boom!"
MP: No flash in the pan.
EH: Yeah, all this crap flies all over my face, and I'm thinking, "I don't like this!" But, then, at the same time, the percussion against your chest, the loud boom that you hear echoing five miles away across the mountain coming back at you, the recoil ... "Let's do this again!" The only thing I didn't like was that thing going up in my face. So, I think, "Hrmppf! Next time, I'm closing my eyes!" Ever since then, that's what I did. When it comes time to pull the trigger, I close my eyes. And, the re-enactors told me, "Anybody stupid enough to keep their eyes open when this thing goes off, would be blind by now."
MP: I imagine that's what they really did. They were firing at massed targets and didn't really have to aim.
EH: Right. It's a smooth bore muzzle loader. You've got this lead ball ... it's not smooth, it's not been rounded. You shove it down through there. And, it's kind of just rattling out. It could be 3 or 4 feet off, but, I find out since then, you clean those balls off and pack them in the right way, and believe it or not, I can hit just as good with it as I could with a modern day gun.
MP: Oh, is that the purpose of the silk? When Hawkeye is covering the courier at the Fort?
EH: The silk patch is a tighter weave and gives them a little extra ... You've got to remember, the fabric in those days really stunk. Very open, so a lot of the wave that came from the powder would actually go through it and past the ball. No good. Silk weave was a more closed, tighter weave and would go "another 40 yards."
MP: You guys go off to learn to be the central corps of the British force in the movie ...
EH: The Cadre.
MP: We've heard a lot about Dale Dye, who trained you guys. What was it about him that made him so impressive, so imposing?
EH: Let me step back a bit ... Before I went into the movie, I thought military was for losers. I'd been through high school, I'd see these guys who were in ROTC, and they were all nerds. They go play their little game ... My father was in the Marine Corps during WWII in the Pacific campaign and he's got a lot of great stories ... I love to hear them ... I don't know, I had never been a part of a group before that. You know I'd been through high school ... I'd been in a band. Big deal. You were still an individual. And everything I had ever done, I was still only an individual. Dale Dye comes in and they tell us he's going to bust our butts and train us EXACTLY like he trained them at Cherry Point. He was a 22-year veteran. Fought in Guam, Beruit, Vietnam ... he had been in the worst part of Vietnam, the bombing at Beruit. He was the commander, and those guys that had got killed at Beruit were all his. That hit him real hard. Come to find out, the government tried to cover it up or something, he became very outraged and retired. Basically took an early retirement from the Marine Corps. All of that we weren't given up-front. We were just told that he was a kick-butt type trainer and he's really going to push to make you want to do what he tells you to do. We go in, we're all sitting around, first day. Introducing ourselves, basically. He walks in and just kind of puts his hands on his hips and looks around. He immediately turns red. Looks like he's just boiling up. A volcano ready to explode. Shouts like you've never heard a man shout in your life. He hollars just like that guy in Full Metal Jacket! He's got that voice that just goes ... it just travels. Scares the piss out of all of us. We stand up. "What the heck?!" We're all standing around ... "What's the deal with this guy?" He starts rolling off all of this mess ... [expletives] ... he's just rolling this stuff off like you wouldn't believe. Not even taking a breath in between ... This guy is just continuing. He never stops. I'm thinking, "I thought sailors cussed bad!" We're getting a little smaller, and a little smaller, and a little smaller ... just ready to climb into a hole! I'm thinking, "I don't like this. I just want to go home!" [laughs] ... "You look at me when I talk to you!!! Out on the field, right now!" So we get out there, and he starts busting our tails, exercises ... we're sweating. We take off running, and I mean my guts feel like they're about ready to pour out. We just keep going, keep going, keep going ... If you drop out, he will absolutely just bury you! I'm thinking, "I'm not getting paid enough for this!" Of course, everybody else is thinking that, too. And it just keeps on, keeps on. We're not handed a weapon, we're THROWN our weapon. If you drop it, you EAT it! You take care of this thing. [laughs] We are issued one weapon and that is our weapon throughout the entire movie. If anything happens to that weapon, it's your butt. We are trained, basically, how to take it apart with our eyes shut. I found out that the only difference between what we went through and what the United States Marine Corps goes through, is that we get to go home at the end of the evening. That's the only difference. He was no more lenient on us because we were there to get paid ...
MP: It was definitely NOT the glamour of movie making ...
EH: NO! There was no glamour whatsoever.That's what's going through a lot of our minds. Some of these guys had been in The Blue & The Gray and other movies.They had never gone through what we'd been through either. They showed up, done their little thing, went home. They had never had to go through this training before. This was all new to them, as well. We lost several people at the beginning. One re-enactor, that I know of, and one civilian, because of this vulgar treatment we were getting from this man. We became such a family. It was a very, very strong family. Yeah, we fought amongst ourselves. They put particular people in charge. We were given three ranks. Each rank had a leader. A lot of us were hard headed, didn't like the leader we had. Challenged them. If we challenged it, Dye found out about it, we were chewed out. This is not a choice. You're not given a choice in the military and you're not going to have a choice here. "This is not a democracy." He said, "You can forget your Mommy's house. This is not a democracy! You don't have a choice here! You will do as I say!" You just kind of live with it and go on. At one point in time, a rumor was spread that Michael Mann was going to kick out everyone that was under 5'9". So, we didn't like that at all. We were determined that if one goes, we ALL go. This was like 3 weeks into it. Obviously, he had heard about this, so, all of the short guys got high-heeled shoes! Nothing was said. We had one fella ... as a matter of fact, he lives in Marion, here ... Charles Thomas. He has one bad foot and had to have boots on ... for ankle support and all of that. Well, they were going to get rid of him because of his handicap. It just hit us really hard. He comes in. He finds out that he's going to be kicked ... I mean we're just all ... we're basically carrying his burden. That's just how we felt. Dye ... I'd never seen sympathy in him before. Now, we've got sympathy that we see in this man. So, we start marching, and Charlie is basically packing up his stuff, and heading to his car, and we march up to his car and salute him. I don't think that there was a dry eye amongst any of us. We were so strong, the bond that we had there. Even Dye. He had told us, "In Platoon I trained men ... There was not that bonding. You guys are the best that I've trained. You have come very, very close to some of the guys I trained for 'Nam, for Beruit. We've got a bond here that you can't break."
[Charles Thomas was called back 2 or 3 days later when the situation was discussed with Michael Mann. He can be seen at Massacre Valley as a prisoner just behind DDL.]
MP: There was a question I wanted to ask you, I might as well ask you now ... When you were done with the training, how would you compare this fighting force to a REAL fighting force?
EH: Of course, when you're talking about lives at stake, a lot of things change. Given the situation at hand, if we had to, we probably would have. There was a couple that dropped out, from the original that we started with, that were replaced. We didn't accept ANYBODY. We were loners. If had to of, we would have followed him to Hell and back. We felt that strongly.
MP: You start out, and you almost hate the guy because he's so oppressive ...where did it change? How did it come to be that everyone becomes so dedicated to this guy?
EH: It just happened! Honest. You do it everyday. You get this abuse every day. "I can go home any time I want to! I don't need this crap." We had people talk about it, wanting to drop out. The other guys, they're there. "C'mon guys. Just kind of brush it off. Don't worry about it. It'll get better. I'm sure it will." It was like everyone stepped in to help the other one out ... [laughs] ... The two brothers from England were there, and John Crowe, who's now the Godfather of our 3 children ... him and his brother always, forever, got called to stay out there when we got a break.
The two British brothers of The Cadre
"You guys are going to learn how to do this if we have to stay here til midnight!" I can remember David saying, "If I have to go out there one more damn time, I'm leaving!" [laughs] He was so ticked. He said, "No one else has to go out there. There ain't no one but me. I go out there every time!" Everybody's like, "Don't worry about it." And so, during our breaks, when he could come in, everybody was helping him out. "We have to get you in step." That sucker became a Sergeant! [laughs] He turned around and was leading us now. We didn't mind it, though. It was weird how it worked out.
MP: Would you say that Dale Dye was the logical extension of Michael Mann, seeing as how they were both such perfectionists? Do you think Mann might have seen some of himself in Dye?
EH: At the time, not really. Dye was almost like two different people. For us, he was the perfectionist, the leader. The to-die-for type fella. But then, when Michael was there he was ... he changed. Knowing what I know now, I see he looked at Michael Mann as the commanding General. "Yes, sir." Here he is, he's commanding us, he's putting us down, giving us abuse, then all of a sudden he's turned around and he's basically bowing backwards for this guy. We couldn't grasp that. "Why is he doing this?" Of course, in military, he would've done that. "Yes, sir!" to the higher up than him, and that's basically what it was. Michael was the perfectionist ... he was VERY "perfectionist". If it took 60 times to do it, then, by God, we did it 60 times. We did have to give a "dog & pony" show, as Dale called it, where we had to march around, do everything we had to do. [This "show" was filmed for use in The Making of The Last of the Mohicans.] If I'm not mistaken, by then Steven Waddington had come out and he trained the last 2 weeks with us. He kind of became part of the family. If he had been with us for the full thing, he would have. We looked at him as "Major". We didn't call him Steve, we called him Major. We saluted him as our higher up. He ran with us. He never fell out. Whatever we had to do, he done. He became an equal, as far as the family was concerned, though he had a bigger title. He was just getting more money.
MP: Would you describe Dye as a guy who just strips your identity, strips your soul, and just makes you his?
EH: He is trained to do that, yes. In the Marine Corps, they take you in at four o'clock in the morning. They drive you around all night long, keeping you awake, to take you over there the first time you go to Cherry Point at four o'clock in the morning. They put you down. They strip you of your identity to build you back the way they want you to be. It's mind control.
MP: How long was this training process?
EH: Four weeks. Very intensive. Four weeks for us. Then we turned around and got another ... total, I think, was about 150 ... and we trained them.
MP: The background force?
MP: So then, what was the purpose of the Cadre?
EH: To train and to lead. They teach us, then we teach them.
MP: I mean for purposes of the film.
EH: If you've got a big line of people, and the camera is over to one side, that's where we are. The forefront. In the four weeks, we HAD to be precise. We didn't stop. I mean the day didn't end at four o'clock, 5' oclock, or 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock. It ended when we got it right. We weren't allowed to leave until it was right. We had to fire and sound like one gun going off. You didn't want to hear him say, "Make ready! Fire!", and then hear boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. He wanted to hear, "BOOM." That's what it basically boiled down to. When he said, "Present your firelock!", he wanted to hear ONE click, not click, click, click, click, click. We had it, and we were good. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we WERE good! We clicked. By the end of it, his patience paid off. He put a lot of sweat into us. By rebuilding us, I guess you would say, and creating that bond, that family type thing, we did; we became good.
MP: You met Steven Waddington during this process. When did you meet the rest of the cast? Was it on the training field?
EH: If I'm not mistaken, before we even got into the 5th and 6th weeks, where we were training other people, Jodhi May had come out and stayed a day with us. She didn't do any exercise, just sort of out there. We had the chance ... she kind of set by herself, very shy, didn't talk. We kind of introduced ourselves, one by one. I mean, it wasn't a line ... kind of odd that she would just be alone out there. Very few times did she actually come inside the barracks. She would just stay outside, so we went out there. I found out she was real young, 16, and I went out ... introduced myself, she introduced herself. Of course, I didn't know her from Adam. I'd never seen her in anything else. None of these guys had I ever heard of before. When I'm going home, I'm renting these movies, trying to find out, well who is this guy? I didn't know Daniel Day-Lewis. I didn't know that he had a movie out. I had seen Stakeout, but I didn't know who Madeleine Stowe was. [laughs] I can remember ooh, ooh, ooh ... there's that woman, but I didn't know who it was. Richard Dreyfuss I knew. Now if he showed up, I'd have known him! Michael Mann, I knew, because I loved Miami Vice. When I found out it was him, "Wow! I can't believe this. Michael Mann! All right! We're going to have all kinds of nice music in this thing!" Oh, back to the question ... Steven Waddington, he was in the same age range as the rest of us. He fell right in. No problem. When we ran, we made up ... well, it started out .. Capt. Dye used what he had been trained to use, what men had used for years ... we chanted as we ran. You heard one, that I had told you, which I won't say ... [very rhythmic, very explicit!] ... Well, this old guy sits on his porch every morning, day in, day out. He's settin' on the porch, we go by ... I mean there was a line marked on the ground where he started this thing! Every morning this old guy gets up, looks at us REAL hard, goes inside. [laughs] Steven Waddington loved this. When he first heard this, he was like ... Well, of course, Capt. Dye never referred to our hands as what they are. He referred to them as "dick skinners". Steve makes up this chant. "Capt. Dye, don't you understand? It's not my dick skinner, it's my f-----g hand!" [laughs] So, we're just running down through the field there, and he just makes this up out of the blue. And, anytime anyone of us had something like that, they'd start it off and the rest of us would follow in. So, when he says that, everybody, including Capt. Dye, everybody's darned near out of step by this time, danged near ready to just put our bodies on the ground and roll on down the hill. We're laughing so hard, including Capt. Dye. Our composure just went to ... Steven, being red-haired, fair skinned, his face was beet red, by the time he was finished with this, I mean he was so embarrassed by this. It was funny as heck, and we used it a lot after that.
Soldier #1 & Soldier #2, in center of picture, at boot camp!
MP: Where were you doing this training? Was this in Asheville?
EH: Yes, at the Firefighters' Camp, in Arden actually. To make a point, that's my middle name. [laughs] Right on the bank of the French Broad River, which was kind of nice. It was a sandy place, tall grass. We had to march in this stuff. "This is for the birds", because you got to maintain your focus, looking ahead, you're tripping, you're falling. I asked him, "Capt. Dye, why are we having to do this here? Why don't we do it out on the street or something?" He said, "If you can do it out here, you can do it on the street, but if you do it on the street, you can't do it out here!" Makes sense.