Taps (1981) Poster



Jump to: Spoilers (1)
Prior to the production of the film, the key actors -Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and others - were required to participate in a 45-day-long period of orientation with the students of Valley Forge Military Academy. They were given uniforms, borrowed from their real life counterparts at the school and given authentic military haircuts. They slept in campus barracks and were subjected to the same rigors and hardship that all Valley Forge cadets went through. While most of the actors enjoyed and excelled at their orientation, Cruise opted to leave the training for the comforts of a nearby hotel until filming began.
First feature film for Sean Penn.
Tom Cruise was originally going to play a background character in the film, but Director Harold Becker was so impressed by the way he conducted himself as one of the military cadets during rehearsals that he was offered the part of David Shawn. At first Cruise refused and then was finally convinced by Becker and Producer Stanley R. Jaffe play the role.
The Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana rejected filming at their campus when they learned of the the film's ending.
Actor Brendan Ward became a New York City Police Officer in 1989, retiring in the rank of Sergeant in 2010.
Over two thousand young actors were interviewed to play military cadets in the movie. The film featured 650 real life cadets from the Valley Valley Forge Military Academy and College, most of them appearing in military parade sequences.
Foley recording of cadets was done during filming during normal daily activities. Cadet marching was recorded during parade practice, requiring extra marching by cadets and adding to the disruption of daily life.
Due to the 1980 Screen Actors Guild writer's strike, filming on the campus of Valley Forge Military Academy took much longer (60 days) than originally planned. It caused such a disruption that the commandant of the school subsequently advised his colleagues not to allow film productions at their schools. The next year both Valley Forge and the Citadel military academies denied filmmakers of The Lords of Discipline (1983) access to their grounds, leading it to be filmed in England instead.
Timothy Hutton accepted his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Ordinary People (1980) immediately after shooting on Taps (1981) begin. TAPS was the first film Hutton was seen in after winning his Academy Award.
The gate seen at the end of the quad area was built specifically for the film and was dismantled after filming ended.
The Roosevelt quote, "All men who feel any power of joy in battle know what it is like when the wolf rises in the heart...", is from ''Rough Riders", published in 1899.
This was only actor Tom Cruise' second film, appearing in it at the age of only 17. Playing Cadet Captain David Shawn, Cruise received fifth billing in the casting list.
The uniforms in the movie were the normal uniforms worn by cadets. The embroidered shoulder badges of "Valley Forge" were changed during filming to "Bunker Hill". Then, the cadets of the Academy had no camouflage fatigues as a uniform. Filming continued into the summer after cadets' school year was over.
More than 2000 actors auditioned for Sean Penn's role as Cadet Captain Alex Dwyer, which Penn won after being seen in a fiery performance in an off-Broadway play "Heartland" by the film's Casting Director Shirley Rich.
Ronny Cox was Harold Becker's original choice to play Colonel, but another unnamed actor was chosen and then fired two days into shooting his scenes. Producer Stanley R. Jaffe immediately called Cox, who flew down the very next day to begin shooting his scenes.
The scene where Timothy Hutton and Ronny Cox's characters are discussing terms was shot with three to four cameras, one of them operated by Director of Photography Owen Roizman. Roizman made a bet with Director Harold Becker for $75.00 that his close-up shots would make the final cut of the film. It was Roizman's tight close up shots that made the final cut of the film, and Roizman who is $75.00 richer.
Sean Penn and a handful of other actors received military horsemanship training for the scenes as the leader of the school's mounted cavalry. He later stated "It's not like riding out on a backwoods trail-The trick is to salute, control the horse, keep in step with the other riders and try not to fall off."
The film was made and released about two years after its source novel "Father Sky" by Devery Freeman was first published in 1979. The book was still in manuscript form when the rights were purchased by producer Stanley R. Jaffe.
First film from producer Stanley R. Jaffe after his Best Picture Academy Award winning Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).
The Hargrave Military Academy (HMA) in Chatham, Virginia was turned down as a filming location by the school's management after learning of the film's storyline and not wanting to agree to the producers' request to want to erect a wall around the front of the campus.
The film's main promotional tagline, "This school is our home, we think it's worth defending" is based on a line of dialogue by Cadet Major Brian Moreland ('Timothy Hutton) which actually says, "We have a home here. We think it's something worth defending."
One of many projects that were delayed by the 1980 strike by the Screen Actor's Guild, which was finally settled late that year. Taps immediately started filming in January 1981.
The film was originally going to be filmed at Riverside Military Academy, in Georgia, but the producers changed their minds after a tour of the campus, by which they decided that it "didn't have enough walls." RMA officials countered by saying that allowing production would have caused too much disruption of the cadets' daily lives. After the movie was released, it seems that this held true.
Most of the battle names mentioned during the film are well-known. Two lesser-known ones are from the Viet Nam War. The first, Pleiku, is a town in the central highland region of Vietnam, the site of an USA base during the Vietnam War. It was the scene of a major Viet Cong attack in early 1965. The second, Plei Me, was a camp, 40 km south of Pleiku city, attacked and besieged in October 1965 by 33rd Regimant of the North Viet Namese Army.
Actor George C. Scott headlined this 20th Century Fox military movie. The actor had previously starred in and won a Best Actor Oscar in another Fox military movie, Patton (1970). Scott once said of his role as Brigadier General Harlan Bache in TAPS: "I have sympathy for Bache. He's lived by the rules. His values were Patton (1970)'s values - duty, honor, country. He's a proud man, and the school officials won't give him his due. Of course, his influence on the cadets is imbalanced. Unfortunately, they have no perspective on the man".
The type of tank seen in the film was a M48 Patton tank. The medium tank was the third and final tank to be named after General George S. Patton (1970) whom TAPS lead actor George C. Scott portrayed twice, in Patton (1970) and after this film in The Last Days of Patton (1986).
Timothy Hutton was originally slated to play a supporting role, a friend of the lead character Cadet Major Brian Moreland, whom he ended up portraying.
A number of military campuses across the USA were scouted as locations for shooting the film before the Valley Forge Military Academy and College (aka the Military College of Pennsylvania) in Wayne, Pennsylvania was chosen. These included Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia; Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana; Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia and Carson Long Military Academy in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania.
Publicity for this picture stated that the character of Cadet Major Brian Moreland (played by Timothy Hutton) was "intensified" for the film version of Devery Freeman's "Father Sky" novel.
To prepare for his lead role as Cadet Major Brian Moreland, actor Timothy Hutton read the following books: American Caesar (1983), a biography of General Douglas MacArthur, by William Raymond Manchester; Billy Budd (1962) by Herman Melville, a biography of General George S. Patton (1970) and The Lords of Discipline (1983) by Pat Conroy.
Prior to principal photography, actors playing the military cadet leads underwent four weeks of military training at the Valley Forge Military Academy and College where the film was shot. The dozen playing the Red Beret guard of honor had to learn a very tricky rifle drill which involved throwing rifles to each other and back like juggling pins.
The film's title on the film print is TAPS, but many promotional materials, such as movie posters and video/DVD covers for this 20th Century Fox film have it spelled T*A*P*S. As the title had only four letters, like the same Fox studio's popular army comedy TV series, M*A*S*H (1972) (and its precursor movie MASH (1970) also spelled it M*A*S*H the same for press materials), a studio decision was made to connect with this, and spell the film with asterisks between the letters for promo materials. An opening titles clip from M*A*S*H (1972) is actually featured in the movie when the TAPS military cadets are watching TV in the rec room.
This is the first time Timothy Hutton has worn an army uniform. The second was The Leverage Episode "The Three Days Of The Hunter Job"
The rainy weather caused numerous problems during filming. Director Harold Becker had to create four sets of call sheets for each day's shooting in case a scene taking place outdoors would be rained out and interior shoot would take its place. It also was very noticeable in the editing of the film, as cadets are seen wearing ponchos in one scene and none the next.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The film was originally developed at Columbia Pictures by Producer Stanley R. Jaffe, but ran into a series of creative problems with the studio and it was one of many projects that went into "turnaround" under their banner. Jaffe was passionate about the project and then took it to Twentieth Century-Fox, who bought the script and immediately green-lit the project.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The exterior shots of the film were shot at Valley Forge, but the interiors (including General Basche's office) were shot on sets built in Vally Forge's massive polo field by Alfred Sweeney and Stan Jolley.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The film was originally going to be filmed at Carson Long Military Academy in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania. However, after learning that the school's gymnasium would be destroyed during filming, the president of the school rejected the offer, despite the fact that a new and better gymnasium would be built in its place, at the expense of the film's budget.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Part of a mini-cycle of Hollywood movies made during the early 1980s centering around military cadet training. The pictures include Taps (1981), Stripes (1981), Private Benjamin (1980), Up the Academy (1980), The Lords of Discipline (1983) and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). Then the mid-late 1980s saw a few more: Cadence (1990), Biloxi Blues (1988), Heartbreak Ridge (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The film's TAPS title refers to, according to Wikipedia, "a musical piece sounded at dusk, and at funerals, particularly by the U.S. military. It is played during flag ceremonies and funerals, generally on bugle or trumpet, and often at Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Girl Guide meetings and camps. The tune is also sometimes known as "Butterfield's Lullaby", or by the first line of the lyric, "Day is Done". The term originates from the Dutch term taptoe, meaning "close the (beer) taps (and send the troops back to camp)". "Military tattoo" comes from the same origin." TAPS is bookended by such musical military parade sequences.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The length of time that the Bunker Hill Military Academy had been in operation was 141 years.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
According to producer Stanley R. Joffe: In a strange sense, "Taps" is like "Jaws," only rather than having a shark going crazy in a seaside resort, we have a trusted institution - something that has been part of the community for a long time - suddenly running amok.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
One of the cadets is nicknamed "Pigpen", a reference (most likely) to the characters of the same name in the "Peanuts" comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Receiving top first billing in the casting credits, actor George C. Scott actually only really appears in the movie in the film's first act.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page