Location scouting for The Last of the Mohicans

A View to Hugh marks a dozen years today.  We published our very first post on November 1, 2007.  Casting about for subject matter to mark the occasion, I took to Hugh Morton’s executive planners with hopes that he would have been up to something interesting on one of the November firsts represented within the years covered by the planners.*  Thankfully, on November 1, 1990—twenty-nine years ago—he was.

Morton planner November 1 1990

Hugh Morton’s executive planner entry for November 1, 1990: “Lin. Falls – G Mtn – Mike Bigham and Michael Mann – ‘Last of the Mohicans'”

On that day, Morton accompanied movie director Michael Mann and his North Carolina locations manager Michael Bigham on a scouting trip for Mann’s film The Last of the Mohicans. According to an October 27, 1989 article in The Asheville Citizen, Mike Bigham was a member of the Western North Carolina Film Committee.  Information surrounding Morton’s involvement with Mann’s trip for his film is limited to the above entry in Morton’s planner and the negatives Morton made during their search.  Morton’s negative envelope description is “Lost Cove Cliffs, Scouting for ‘Last of the Mohicans.'”

Hugh Morton's negatives made during location scouting.

Hugh Morton’s negatives (inverted as positives) made during the location scouting trip for The Last of the Mohicans (P0081 2.6.452-6-1). Several scenes suggest part of their trip was airborn.

Morton made two snapshot-like portraits of Mann (one can be seen at the end of this post) and one photograph as he walked on boulders just upstream from some rapids or a small waterfall.

Inspecting rapids, camera in hand.

Michael Mann walks along a stream, camera in hand.

The movie’s United States debut was on September 25, 1992 at Asheville’s Beaucatcher Cinemas.  On October 4, the city’s Sunday newspaper The Citizen-Times featured an article on the movie titled “Mohican madness.”  Written by Connie Mixson, the article explored the making of the film based upon an interview with Bigham, a UNC Chapel Hill Class of 1980 graduate.  Six years after Mohicans, Bigham would become the location manager for Patch Adams released in 1998—filmed in part on the UNC Chapel Hill campus including Wilson Library.

Mixson reported that Bigham had just finished working in Winston-Salem as the assistant locations manager for James Orr’s movie Mr. Destiny in October when he received a call from Mann’s office.  They told him to rent a copy of the 1936 black-and-white movie version of James Fenimore Cooper’s story.  Two days later Mann went to Asheville and met Bigham, “then they boarded a helicopter and scouted Western North Carolina.”  They “toured lakes in five states from the air, land and water, taking pictures . . .”  Mann selected Asheville and vicinity for his movie, set in upstate New York.  Part of the film was shot at Linville Falls.

Do you have more you can add to the story?  How did Hugh Morton become involved in the locations search?

Michael Mann during his scouting trip of the Linville River.

Michael Mann during his scouting trip of the Linville River.

  • Morton’s executive planners in the collection cover the years 1972–1978, 1981–1985, 1987, 1991–1992, 1995–1997, 2000, and 2002.

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