Director Michael Mann originally wanted to shoot in upstate New York, the story's original location. Unfortunately, present-day Leatherstocking Country no longer looks like the place James Fenimore Cooper described, and to find the forest canopy and lack of brush they needed, the crew had to go to the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. The cast and crew went through various forms of athletic and outdoors skills training to be able to capture the way of life in the 1790s and to realistically portray the skills of Native Americans and colonial soldiers.
Mann was inspired to make the film after viewing the 1936 version. He was inspired not only by the film's Philip Dunne script but also by the original novel. Mann's goal, nevertheless, was to present a more three-dimensional picture of Native American life in this period and to show their contribution to the French-American War effort. Mann admitted that he found Cooper's portrayal of Indian life rather flat and imagined; however, Mann himself has been criticized for similar depictions and for not having the real authority to show an actual picture of Native American life.
Mann did not want a single blade of grass harmed by the production, and anyone who didn't comply lost their job.
This was Mann's first film since MANHUNTER (1986).
Mann had Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Means attend a grueling hand-to-hand combat training program prior to production.
When the film came out on video, its distributor, FoxVideo, launched a campaign against Warner Home Video, whose film UNDER SIEGE was being released at roughly the same time. Warner raised the stakes by using print ads that read "When you can have 'The Best' why settle for 'The Last?'" Warner also distributed a fact sheet comparing the box-office and rental figures for UNDER SIEGE star Steven Seagal versus those of MOHICANS star Daniel Day-Lewis. Most of the controversy was fueled by both companies' decision to retail the films for $94, a high price for videos.
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is part of a five-book series written by author James Fenimore Cooper called THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES. Leatherstocking Country refers to the area around Albany, New York, that includes Cooperstown, where the author grew up.
In the novel, Hawkeye's American name is Natty Bumppo; it was changed in the film to Nathaniel Poe.
Russell Means, who plays Hawkeye's father, Chingachgook, is best known as an Indian activist and a leader of AIM (American Indian Movement), a group that works for the protection of American Indian land and legal rights. His most famous act of "defiance" occurred on February 27, 1973, when he and other AIM members seized the historic site of Wounded Knee, where American Indians were slaughtered by the United States Army in 1890.
Director of photography Dante Spinotti won a British Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
The original composer, Trevor Jones, completed writing only some of the music for the film before leaving the project. Randy Edelman was brought in to finish the score, with little time to accomplish the task. The score went on to win a Golden Globe.
Academy Awards Best Sound 1992