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Story Notes for The Patriot

Weeknights during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies! Below is the online version of the Story Notes for The Patriot.

Award Notes
Gibson was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for his performance in The Patriot.

The Patriot was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound.

The Patriot got Heath Ledger noticed as an actor. Five years later, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel was nominated for an Academy Award for The Patriot.

Screenwriter Robert Rodat also wrote Saving Private Ryan (1998) and was nominated for an Academy Award for that movie.

Biography Notes
This is Chris Cooper’s second time playing a colonel. He was Col. Frank Fitts in American Beauty (1999).

Stories of patriotism are not new to director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. They made Independence Day (1996).

Heath Ledger didn’t work for a year because he only got offers for teen heartthrob roles. He was about to quit acting and return to Australia when he was cast in The Patriot.

While shooting The Patriot, Gibson worked on an animated movie about a different sort of revolution. He was the voice of Rocky in Chicken Run (2000).

Tom Wilkinson (Gen. Cornwallis) later played Ben Franklin in the TV miniseries “John Adams” (2008).

Director Roland Emmerich has a knack for blowing things up, including the whole world in 2012 (2009).

Joely Richardson played young Queen Elizabeth I in Anonymous (2011), also by director Roland Emmerich.

The Patriot is the movie that got Heath Ledger noticed as an actor.

Screenwriter Robert Rodat also wrote Saving Private Ryan (1998), known for its graphic battle scenes.

Casting Notes
The Patriot was Australian-born Heath Ledger’s second American movie.

Aunt Charlotte is played by Joely Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and sister of Natasha. You may recognize her from Nip/Tuck (2003-2010).

Lisa Brenner plays Anne. The Patriot was her first movie.

Chris Cooper plays Col. Burwell. He won an Oscar in 2003 for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Adaptation.

Gregory Smith (Thomas) went on to star as Ephram Brown on “Everwood” (2002-2006).

Trevor Morgan has also been in The Sixth Sense (1999) and Jurassic Park III (2001).

Jason Isaacs plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies.

Adam Baldwin worked with Emmerich on Independence Day (1999).

Tom Wilkinson is a two-time Oscar nominee for Michael Clayton (2006) and In the Bedroom (2000).

Tchéky Karyo (Maj. Villeneuve) plays Bob in La Femme Nikita (1990).

Rene Auberjonois (Rev. Oliver) played Paul Lewiston on “Boston Legal” (2004-2008).

Leon Rippy plays John Billings, He’s been in a lot of Roland Emmerich movies, including Stargate (1994).

Skye McCole Bartusiak (Susan) played a little girl on the run in the second season of “24” (2002-2003).

Donal Logue (Dan) had a breakout role in The Tao of Steve (2000) the same year as The Patriot.

Actual amputees were cast to play soldiers who lost their limbs.

Finance Notes
Mel Gibson earned $25 million for his role in The Patriot, the most any star had been paid at the time.

The Patriot opened as the No. 1 movie in America. Its worldwide box office was over $215 million.

History Notes
The “Continentals” were an army established by the Continental Congress in June, 1775.

Charleston had its own version of the Boston Tea Party in 1774.

In March of 1776, only 25% of colonists supported war with England.

Charleston was a major port in the South and a prime target for British attack.

Boys were allowed to enlist in the Continental Army at age 15 with a parent’s permission.

George Washington wrote his own “Five Rules of War” in 1775. Rule No. 4: Don’t Abuse Prisoners.

The British burned homes to send a message. In some cases, they burned whole towns.

Mel Gibson’s character is mainly based on Brigadier General Francis Marion. Marion is considered the father of modern guerrilla warfare.

The rifles used by Rebel farmers took about two minutes to reload. British muskets took about eight.

Rebels shot at officers first to create a state of confusion for the other soldiers. Because of this, British soldiers hanged colonists for even possessing rifles.

The Battle of Camden was the worst defeat for the Patriots in the Revolutionary War.

The French made invaluable contributions to the American Revolution.

British calvarymen were known as the Green Dragoons.

Cornwallis (Wilkinson) was second-in-command of the British army and led their campaign in the South.

The Continental Army was the first integrated army in American history.

Francis Marion — the basis for Benjamin — escaped capture by hiding his militia in swamps. Because of this, General Tarleton — the basis for Tavington — nicknamed him the “Swamp Fox.”

Bundling bags were designed to test a couple’s bedroom compatibility before marriage.

The Revolution divided many families. Some historians call it the “first civil war.”

Francis Marion learned his guerrilla tactics from fighting the Cherokee.

Gullah villages were set up by escaped slaves in the South as early as the 1700s. The Gullah culture and traditions live on in South Carolina to this day.

In England, the punishment for treason was being hanged, drawn, and quartered.

There’s no record that Redcoats lock the church doors after Tavington rides out. Screenwriter Robert Rodat based it on an event that happened in Nazi-occupied France during WWII.

Americans had endured close to five years of war by the scene where Burwell tries to convince Benjamin to avenge Gabriel’s death.

“Huzzah” is an early form of “hooray” that dates back to the 1500s.

The three forces that won the Revolution are: the regulars, the militia, and the French.

The strategy of drawing the British troops inward was used at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Roland Emmerich says this is what he wanted to show: “What the start of America was like, done by rebels, some guerrilla war fighters.”

Location Notes
It was hard finding a swamp to shoot in, so they rented out a botanical garden and flooded it.

The Gullah Maroon scenes were filmed at Botany Bay Plantation, a 5,000-acre wildlife preserve.

The nearby road is where the church burning is filmed is named for a reverend whose house was burned by the British.

Love Note
Lisa Brenner (Anne) and producer Dean Devlin met on the set of The Patriot and married on July 4th, 2003.

Music Notes
The theme music was played after President Obama’s acceptance speech on election night in 2008.

The song playing when Benjamin and his men ride away from the Cornwalis headquarters has two names. The British called it “The British Grenadiers.” Patriots called it “Free Americay.”

The only dramatic scene in the movie that’s not underscored with music is when Nathan hides under the dining room table as Tavington searches the room.

The music used when Tavington shaves in the stream as Gabriel and the militia approach is the same song used during Benjamin Martin’s rescue of Gabriel after Thomas was killed.

Composer John Williams was nominated for an Oscar for The Patriot‘s score. Williams is the second most nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards.

Press Notes
Entertainment Weekly ranks Mel Gibson one of the “Top 50 Movie Stars of All Time.”

The Patriot (2000) is the first film about the American Revolution to be a hit with both critics and audiences.

Entertainment Weekly said Isaacs played Tavington to “contemptuous perfection.”

Roger Ebert called the scene where Benjamin stands up from slaughtering a Redcoat the “most disturbing” scene in the movie.

Rolling Stone: “It is remarkable to see a mainstream movie… patrolling such rough terrain.”

Roger Ebert called Mel Gibson’s performance in this movie “powerful and effective.”

One critic called Gibson’s character in The Patriot a “Braveheart Doodle Dandy.”

Critics agreed The Patriot gave the American Revolution the epic it deserves.

Prop Notes
The hatchet Benjamin uses to fight the Redcoats is made of rubber for safety, but when Benjamin gets ready to throw the hatchet, it is metal hatchet heavy enough to throw.

The torches were gas-powered and could be switched off at a moment’s notice.

The bayonets used are all retractable so the extras could safely stab each other.

No animals were harmed during the making of this movie. Tavington’s horse is a mechanical horse.

Quote Notes
Director Roland Emmerich says “80 percent of directing is choosing the right actors.”

Over 800 extras were used throughout the movie.

Roland Emmerich said the scene where Benjamin slaughters the Redcoat is the first time the villain shows “one flickering moment of fear.”

Mel Gibson said of his character: “He’s not really ‘the Patriot’… he’s more like ‘the dad.'”

Roland Emmerich said the scene where the two armies march toward each other is like a “couple thousand people playing Russian Roulette.”

Ledger said working on The Patriot answered his question of why Americans “wave their flag so high.” “It’s because they went to hell and back to build their country.”

Heath Ledger didn’t like seeing himself on screen. He said, “My face always scrunches up… [it] makes me want to vomit.”

Mel Gibson: “The most surprising thing is that the rebels hardly ever won a battle. The British were very organized… they just couldn’t find the guys that were underground.”

Producer Dean Devlin says the scene where Benjamin talks about a prisoner exchange is one of his favorites because it’s a “war of words.”

According to Emmerich the scene where Cornwalis and Tavington talk is when Cornwallis “sells his soul to the devil.”

Jason Isaacs: “I play all these tough guys and thugs and strong, complex characters. In real life, I am a cringing, neurotic Jewish mess.”

Producer Dean Devlin said you can see Captain Wilkins’ “soul leaving his body” when Capt. Wilkins stares at the burning church in a daze.

Emmerich says, “This movie is called The Patriot, but Benjamin Martin is not a Patriot. Everyone around him is more patriotic than he is.”

Producer Mark Gordon describes the theme of The Patriot this way: “You can’t save your own family unless you are willing… to save the families of all men.”

Emmerich: “Every movie I make is a miracle. The Patriot is probably the most special to me.”

Random Note
The Patriot‘s biggest competition on its opening weekend was The Perfect Storm (2000) starring George Clooney in a role Gibson turned down to film The Patriot.

Set Notes
The scene where the Martin Family looks on as a battle encroaches on their backyard was cut from the script. The filmmakers only shot it because they got ahead of schedule.

The historical accuracy of the costumes and settings was overseen by the Smithsonian Institute. It’s the first time the Institute ever worked directly on the production of a movie.

The studio wanted to cut a certain shot in the cannonball scene to avoid an R rating, but Emmerich felt it was important not to sanitize war.

The church and the entire surrounding town of Pembroke were built just for The Patriot.

Emmerich was inspired by Western director John Ford, who was known for his wide shots.

The scene where Benjamin walks toward the church in Pembroke to pray was Gibson’s idea. He wants to show Benjamin Martin’s moral dilemma.

The swamp froze solid the day after shooting the scene where Benjamin and Gabriel have just bonded over Thomas. If the filmmakers had been delayed, the shot would have been impossible.

Emmerich said the scene where Cornwalis thanks Benjamin for taking care of his dogs was difficult to film because of all the natural light from the windows. He made sure there were no windows behind Gibson to simplify the problem of changing sunlight.

They built a fake exterior on an existing plantation so they could burn it without hurting the home.

The scene where Benjamin offers Gabriel an apple was improvised.

The scene where Benjamin asks his men to take at least two shots before retreating was shot on a particularly cold day. It was so bad that extras started quitting. To get people to stay, director Emmerich asked Gibson to give a rousing speech. It worked.

The scene where Villeneuve emerges from his tent in a flashy outfit is the last light moment before the big final battle according to director Emmerich.

Everyone in the battle had to undergo a two-week long boot camp before shooting began. The hand-to-hand combat moves are authentic to the time and are still used by the military today.

Gibson and Jason Isaacs practiced their complicated fight sequence almost every day of the 100-day shoot.

Script Notes
Screenwriter Robert Rodat said he wrote the character of Benjamin Martin with Gibson in mind.

Benjamin Martin’s talent for recruiting men was based on Thomas Sumter, known as “The Gamecock.”

The scene where Benjamin and Villeneuve fight over quartering the British is included to show that atrocities were committed on both sides during the war.

Gibson improvised the “soon” line. He wasn’t supposed to give any response.

Source Notes
Benjamin’s retort on “tyrants” is actually a rephrasing of a quote by Mather Byles, a Loyalist clergyman from Boston.

The character of Col. Tavington is loosely based on Gen. Banastre “The Butcher” Tarleton. Tarleton was known for his ruthless tactics on and off the battlefield.

Joely Richardson used Scarlett O’Hara as inspiration for her role as Aunt Charlotte.

Anne’s speech was inspired by letters Abigail Adams sent to John Adams during the Revolution.

The character of Maj. Villeneuve is based on Marquis de Lafayette, a major-general from France.

The scene where Benjamin gives Burwell a letter to give to his family is based on two real events: the Battle of Cowpens, won by the Patriots and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a costly victory for the British.

Symbolism Notes
The North Star stands for family unity in this movie.

The locket is a guide for Benjamin now that his family is torn apart.

The last lead soldier is Benjamin’s last chance to avenge his sons.

Tech Notes
The city of Charles Town (or Charleston) was digitally added to the background during editing.

Over 800 extras were used throughout filming, but in some scenes eighty percent of the Redcoats in shots were computer-animated.

Trivia Notes
The North Star is the only star in the sky that does not appear to change position.

A lot of people believe Betsy Ross designed the first U.S. flag. But that story didn’t crop up until 1870.

“Parley” is a conference between two parties in conflict. The international sign for it is a black flag.

Wardrobe Notes
The Redcoats wear mostly red in this movie so viewers can easily identify them as Redcoats.

The costume department created over 1,200 military outfits for the movie. Costume designer Deborah L. Scott won an Academy Award for Titanic (1997).

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