For those of you tired of Hollywood‘s propensity for inaccurate portrayals of Daniel Boone, and of history in general, here‘s a movie you will surely appreciate. “The Making of Daniel Boone” is not the accurate, cinematic, blockbuster portrayal of Daniel Boone history buffs have been waiting for, but it is the next best thing: a movie that pokes fun at how Hollywood gets history wrong.
This 88-minute, humor packed “mock-u-mentary” is a behind the scenes look at outrageous historical compromises that go into making big-budget history epics. “The Making of Daniel Boone” is the accumulation of director/writer/producer Randall D. Wilkins‘ years observing Hollywood‘s dysfunctional relationship with history.
Allan Kenton (Clancy Brown) is the best-selling author of a biography on the life of Daniel Boone. A Hollywood studio wants to make Kenton‘s book into a major motion picture appropriately titled “Daniel Boone.” Under the strict condition that no inaccuracies are to be tolerated in telling Boone‘s life story on the silver screen, Kenton sells the rights to his book and signs on as an advisor for the script. It all ridiculously unravels from there.
Kenton finds himself surrounded by studio big shots like producer Tim Flint (Andrew J. Robinson) and egomaniacal director “Max” (Jesse Burch) who could not possibly care less for Kenton‘s Boone expertise. To them, the screenplay is not about historical authenticity. It’s about making money and what people expect to see at the box office.
Daniel Boone is at the Alamo. He dons the fictional coonskin cap. Twenty-first Century politically correct sensitivities require that Shawnee Indians are written out of the script as bad guys and replaced with Hessian “missionaries” at the siege of Fort Boonesborough, a stone fortress surrounded by a moat and loaded with pyrotechnics. Fearing that most moviegoers are unfamiliar with Daniel Boone, better-known historical figures are introduced to the storyline. Boone jumps into the Delaware River to save a drowning George Washington. A young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln defends Boone at his treason court-martial in Kentucky. These are just a few examples of historical fact recklessly abandoned during pre-production script development, all to the disillusionment of author Kenton who realizes that his credibility as a scholar will be ruined by his association with the film.
Allan Kenton (right – Clancy Brown) explains to the actor cast as Daniel Boone (Chopper Bernet) that he should get out of the coonskin cap and into clothes similar to what Boone actually wore.
JJ: “The character of Allan Kenton brings to mind Daniel Boone biographers Ted Franklin Belue and John Mack Faragher.”
RW: “Actually, he is a conglomerate of authors Allan Eckert, Mark Baker and Ted Belue. I remember Allan telling me about his book ‘The Frontiersmen.‘ One of the studios, I think it was Warner Brothers, had optioned it. The book ends with the Battle of Thames and Simon Kenton being sent out to identify Tecumseh‘s dead body – the two men where good friends – and he tells them it’s another body because he knows they‘re going to desecrate it. Well, Allan Eckert gets the script, but in the script they have Simon Kenton shooting Tecumseh in the back. Allan throws the script down and starts cursing.
“Another writer is James Alexander Thom who ended up selling several of his books to Francis Ford Coppola‘s company. He said after he got the first script he went to his wife and said, ‘Honey, we‘d better get down on our knees and start praying right now that this movie never gets made.‘“
JJ: “Your film is about Hollywood‘s mistreatment of history. Daniel Boone is the vehicle you chose to illustrate that mistreatment. Of all the legendary figures from American history, why Boone?”
RW: “Because I love that period of history, the late 18th Century, the frontier. It’s one of my passions because I grew up in Southwestern Ohio. So I grew up with all those stories. But I think the main reason is because Daniel Boone is the best known unknown character in American history. Everything that most people know about him is completely wrong.”
JJ: “Do you think Hollywood will ever make an accurate movie about Daniel Boone?”
RW: “Clancy Brown, who plays Allan Kenton in my movie, and who is also a good friend of Allan Eckert, optioned Eckert’s ‘The Court-martial of Daniel Boone‘ quite a few years ago. That‘s always been his passion – to make a really accurate Boone movie. Maybe, between the group of us that are really interested in the period, we can get to the place where we have the power to get something made. If not us, I think someone will someday because, like usual, the real story is so much better than the fiction.”
JJ: “‘The Making of Daniel Boone‘ was awarded runner-up for ‘Best Feature‘ and Andrew J. Robison was awarded ‘Best Supporting Actor‘ at the 2003 New York International Film and Video Festival, yet you can’t find a distributor. Why is that?”
RW: “There are some films that are good that just never get distributed. Basically, the system is very limited and there are a few people in control who decide what gets in the theater and what gets on TV. If it doesn‘t catch their eye, it never gets seen. I think ‘The Making of Daniel Boone‘ will find an audience. It‘s just going to take something to get it out there.”
JJ: “Don‘t you think you‘ve held a mirror up to the film industry, exposing how it mistreats history, and perhaps that‘s why the Hollywood establishment hasn‘t warmed to your film?”
RW: “My wife has said that. She thinks I have, to use a crude expression, peed in Hollywood‘s pool, and that could be, but it’s not just Hollywood. It happens in the publishing industry and other industries that deal with history.”
“The Making of Daniel Boone” (not yet rated) is good, clean fun and skillfully acted with a delightful cast of characters. It’s a movie you’ll think about every time you watch any movie dealing with history. Sure to be a cult classic among Boone enthusiasts and pioneer re-enactors, it might not be a bad idea to show this film to a high school history class.
Kentucky 18th Century artisan, gun maker and Boone Society member Frank House makes a cameo appearance as a tomahawk wielding pioneer.
Director Max (center – Jesse Burch) works on a close up during the rehearsal of a scene between actors cast as Daniel Boone (Chopper Bernet) and Rebecca Boone (Lisa Rhoden).