THE FILMING AT LAKE JAMES
This Filming At Lake James Page is in three parts. Following are photos donated by Mike Dover. Below that are photos contributed by Jim Smith. Finally, there are photos and text by Susan V. Houck. We thank all three for their
Patrick Draughn, of Morganton, North Carolina, worked on the construction crew during the building of Fort William Henry, snapping a picture or two during the breaks ... His buddy, Mike Dover, passed these our way!
Jim Smith, of the Burke County Sheriff's Department, was scouting the area, by helicopter, for marijuana back in the Summer of '91. How successful he was on THAT mission, we don't know, but we're awfully glad he was up there in the
sky, for it resulted in these rare aerial shots of Fort William Henry, about 2/3's completed. A good feel of the SIZE of the Fort can now be had. Jim says the crew was scared out of their wits by the circling craft ... it appeared that they thought OSHA
was on the prowl! Later, after the filming, as part of the security operation on the set, he snapped shots in and around the Fort.
Aerial Views ...
The Fort Interior ...
Artillery on the walls.
Soldier #2's wagon & ramp.
The scene of The Courier.
"... out the northern sally-port ..."
The Fort Exterior ...
Highway 126, which runs between the Fort site and the Lake ... closed during the filming!
The Fort from near the road.
The burnt boat & pier.
View of Lake James from the Fort.
The canoes ... housed in the Fort.
The exterior Fort walls.
Susan V. Houck, a Morganton, North Carolina native, lived through, photographed intently, and loved every minute of the filming at Lake James. Straddling the counties of Burke & McDowell, the lake was the site of Fort William Henry &
several other lesser scenes. As you are probably aware, fully one third of the movie takes place at or near the Fort, thus it is THE most seen scene in the movie. After filming, Susan has explored this area more extensively than anyone we know,
pinpointing many of the locations shot here. Graciously, she is serving up these photos & memories for us. Elsewhere on this site, you can find another photo or two contributed by Susan.
For many years, my summer has been punctuated by lazy days spent in the waters and along the shores of Lake James in Burke County, N.C. In the springtime of 1991, it was evident that this would be no ordinary summer. It was the
summer that Lake James In The Evening turned into Lake George, and when Russell Means led a picketline protest in the base camp at Mac Jones' tree nursery!
Watching Pryor Gibson and his crew of 150 skilled artisans erect the huge Fort William Henry set was truly fascinating. It was worth the closing of the boat access area and Highway 126 for nine weeks. Since the lake itself couldn't be
"closed", boats could go right by the sets for a good look at the painstaking construction. During filming, residents were asked to stay behind the film crew and cut off motors.
The "base camp" --- wardrobe, makeup, props, office and dressing room tents and trailers --- was set up in a tree nursery beside the RV park where my aunt and uncle have a summer home. It was quite possible to sit in a grove of nearby trees
and watch the soldiers marching. Although set security was tight, some local people whose land they were "borrowing" were able to actually watch some of the filming inside the fort. One lady reported watching the scene where Cora bandages Uncas. The
scene had to be reshot because one of the actors forgot to remove his Rolex! (She wasn't sure who. Remember that most of the actors were relatively unknown in 1991.) Unlike the silver bus, this blooper was caught at the time and never made it to the
LOTM began shooting on June 17, 1991, but the Lake James scenes did not begin until July. The pictures below show some of the details of the construction.
The set as it looked in mid-June, 1991. (left)
The fort as it appeared on the 4th of July. (right) Note the American flag.
View of the French Artillery Batteries.
Close-up of the burnt boat with the battleground in background.
This boat is seen for all of five seconds when Hawkeye is towing the canoe into the fort after rescuing Cora and Alice on the George Road.
The above map of the Linville Access Area, based on a map by Susan V. Houck, indicates the relative positions of the sites filmed at this area, and compliments the information in the book nicely. If you are planning to follow the Trail,
print it out and use it in conjunction with the guide.
Following, are additional photos contributed by Susan, donated by her friends, who were extras in the film..
In 1991, Liz and Dave Langrall were working at fairly ordinary jobs and living fairly ordinary lives with the occasional trip to Asheville to participate in a contra-dancing group. It was through their friends that they learned of the casting call
for Mohicans, which would include some dancing scenes. So much for the "ordinary".
As it turned out, Liz indeed got the role of a dancer, but Dave was cast as a militiaman and had the honor of handing a pistol to the courier just before Hawkeye's famous sharpshooter scene. Both enjoyed their experience as extras and felt that by
participating, they were actually able to become a part of movie-making history and a part of local history as well.
Dave was involved in the shooting of several fort scenes, but appears (recognizably) only for that brief moment as he hands over the pistol. Their working "day" ran from about 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Liz remembers sitting around the fire in the fort
between takes; it was a refuge from the mosquitoes. She was able to observe Daniel Day-Lewis out of the corner of her eye, for it is she & her fellow extras dancing to the tune of Dougie MacLean's "The Gael" when Hawkeye seeks out Cora for their meeting
on the battlements. Although there is no clear, focused shot of Liz as there is of Dave, she is easily spotted as the shortest dancer. Her role is printed in the script as "laundress". Although you can't tell it in the pictures, Liz was pregnant when
the movie was filmed. She named her daughter Alice.
Dave took a number of photos at the LOTM base camp at Lake James, and shares some of them here.
Liz and Dave live in the Asheville, N.C. area with their two children Alice and James.
The make-up tent at Lake James, ready for another day of tattoos, dirt & blood.
Militia extras (Dave is second from the left - top left
photo), British extras, and French extras.
See, Also: MORE FROM LAKE JAMES
For More Musings & Photos, Use The MOHICAN MUSINGS INDEX
Ahead To: THE SCRIPT ... The Complete Collection of Scenes From the Film, HISTORY & THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS ... Seeing Through the Distant Haze, and MOHICANLAND LINKS ... To Other Sites
For more specific location pictorials:
WALKING THE (RIVER) WALK || ON LOCATION AT CHIMNEY ROCK PARK