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The Patriot (2000) Poster

(2000)

Trivia

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When teaching Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger how to shoot a muzzle-loading rifle, Technical Advisor Mark Baker gave them the advice to "aim small, miss small", meaning that if you aim at a man and miss, you miss the man, while if you aim at a button (for instance) and miss, you still hit the man. Gibson liked this bit advice so much, he incorporated it into the movie, just prior to the ambush scene.
During a rough day of filming, Producer Dean Devlin noticed most of the extras looking tired and stressed from doing several takes, while wearing heavy costumes in the one hundred degree South Carolina heat. During a break, Devlin suggested to Mel Gibson that he recite his famous "freedom" speech from Braveheart (1995) to cheer them up. Gibson got on a horse and proceeded to give the speech, which he still had memorized, boosting their morale.
In addition to Francis Marion, a.k.a. The Swamp Fox, Mel Gibson's character is also based on the life of South Carolina militia leader General Andrew Pickens. Pickens had his estate torched, and lost a son, before he went back into action and led the militia forces at Cowpens.
Kevin Spacey was the first choice to play Tavington, but after paying Mel Gibson his twenty-five million dollars, there was not enough in the budget to pay Kevin too.
Joshua Jackson, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, Brad Renfro, Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, and Heath Ledger were considered to play Gabriel Martin. The filmmakers narrowed their choices for this role to Ryan Phillippe and Heath Ledger, with the latter chosen, because Director Roland Emmerich thought he possessed "exuberant youth".
Heath Ledger performed his own stunts.
One of the "redcoats" (actually dummies) that is floating face down in the river after the "trap" is a dummy of John Travolta.
Aunt Charlotte's house is the same one used in Forrest Gump (1994), with slightly different interior paneling. The stone hedge visible in Forrest Gump is camouflaged with bushes in this film.
Heath Ledger said working on the film answered his question of why Americans "wave their flag so high." "It's because they went to hell and back to build their country."
The character Benjamin Martin was originally written with six children, but Mel Gibson added one more, because he himself had seven children.
The scene where Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) returns the dogs to General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) may be based on a similar story told about General George Washington. During the Revolutionary War, Washington reportedly noticed the terrier of a British General wandering the battlefield. He subsequently negotiated a cease-fire, and both sides stopped firing until the dog was returned to the British commander.
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 film.
The character of Benjamin Martin is loosely based on the real life soldier Francis Marion, a.k.a. The Swamp Fox. The Swamp Fox taught soldiers guerrilla tactics.
Harrison Ford declined the lead role, feeling the script had boiled the Revolutionary War down to a "one-man's-revenge" melodrama.
The scene in which civilians are locked in the church and burned did not happen during the Revolutionary War. The incident is based on one during World War II Limoges in central France on June 10, 1944. German soldiers herded 452 women and children into a church, and lobbed smoke grenades through the windows, suffocating the victims, and setting the church on fire, while machine guns raked the interior. There was one survivor.
The historical accuracy of the costumes and settings was overseen by the Smithsonian Institution. It's the first time the Institution ever worked directly on the production of a movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal auditioned several times, and was considered for the role of Gabriel Martin, but eventually lost out to Heath Ledger. They would later star in the movie Brokeback Mountain (2005) together, and become very close friends.
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.
Among the American cavalry officers, who participated in the real Battle of Cowpens, was Lieutenant Colonel William Washington - General George Washington's cousin, who went man-to-man with Banastre Tarleton in a saber clash.
Screenwriter Robert Rodat called the final battle a hybrid between the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Battle of Cowpens: The mixture of militia and Continental army in the battle. The militia's reputation of not holding, and the tactic of using that, to lure the British in. The militia only firing a couple of volleys before a planned retreat to a secondary line composed of the Continental army. The Continental army firing and then performing a bayonet charge.
Actual amputees were cast to play soldiers who lost their limbs.
The studio wanted to cut a certain shot in the cannonball scene to avoid an R-rating, but Roland Emmerich felt it was important not to sanitize war.
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.
Mel Gibson improvised the "soon" line. He wasn't supposed to give any response.
Mel Gibson and Jason Isaacs practiced their complicated fight sequence almost every day of the one hundred day shoot.
The term "Redcoats" was used to describe British soldiers as early as May 7, 1645, according to written history.
It was hard finding a swamp, in which to shoot, so the production rented out a botanical garden and flooded it.
The swamp scenes were filmed at Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
The Battle of Cowpens, upon which this movie is based, took place on January 17, 1781. This battle has been commemorated by the U.S. Navy, which named two ships after it. The U.S.S. Cowpens (CVL 25) was a World War II light aircraft carrier, which won twelve battle stars, more than any other light carrier in the war, and was the first ship to enter Tokyo Harbor, and land Marines on the Japanese mainland. The U.S.S. Cowpens (CG 63) is an Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser, serving in the Pacific Fleet, from San Diego, California.
Over eight hundred extras were used throughout the movie.
The scene where Benjamin walks toward the church in Pembroke to pray was Mel Gibson's idea. He wants to show Benjamin Martin's moral dilemma.
After the explosion of the cargo ship, we hear Tavington smash his glass, when placing it down. He really just places it down, but it was decided to add a smashing sound for comic effect. We never actually see the glass breaking.
Robert Rodat wrote seventeen drafts of the script, before there was an acceptable one.
The character of Major Villeneuve, is based on Marquis de Lafayette, a Major General from France.
The film's biggest competition on its opening weekend was The Perfect Storm (2000) starring George Clooney, in a role Mel Gibson turned down to film this movie.
Anne's speech was inspired by letters Abigail Adams sent to John Adams during the Revolution.
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Logan Lerman played Mel Gibson's son in this movie, and played Mel's younger self in What Women Want (2000).
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.
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Lisa Brenner and Dean Devlin met on the set and married on July 4, 2003.
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Roland Emmerich was inspired by John Ford, who was known for his wide shots.
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Robert Rodat wrote the character of Benjamin Martin with Mel Gibson in mind.
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Joely Richardson used Scarlett O'Hara as inspiration for her role as Aunt Charlotte.
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The costume department created over 1,200 military outfits for the movie.
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The bayonets used, are all retractable, so the extras could safely stab each other.
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The church, and the entire surrounding town of Pembroke, were built just for this film.
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The crew built a fake exterior on an existing plantation, so they could burn it, without hurting the house.
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When they are ambushed at the bridge, the kid, on whom they focus the camera, is Thomas as a British soldier.
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.
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According to Roland Emmerich, 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 Mel Gibson to simplify the problem of changing sunlight.
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The scene where Benjamin offers Gabriel an apple was improvised.
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Benjamin Martin's talent for recruiting men was based on Thomas Sumter, known as "The Gamecock."
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Benjamin's retort on "tyrants" is actually a rephrasing of a quote by Mather Byles, a Loyalist clergyman from Boston.
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The torches were gas-powered, and could be switched off at a moment's notice.
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Mel Gibson was paid twenty-five million dollars for making the film.
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DIRECTOR_TRADEMARK(Roland Emmerich): [44]: Seen in the tavern where Martin recruits for his militia, also seen on a wine bottle label.
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, and Chris Cooper; and one Oscar nominee: Tom Wilkinson.
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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.
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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.
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The city of Charles Town (or Charleston) was digitally added to the background during editing.
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Halfway through reading the script for the first time, Roland Emmerich knew he had found his next film.
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Freddie Prinze, Jr. was in the running for the part of Gabriel.
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Roland Emmerich said the scene where the two armies march toward each other is like a "Couple of thousand people playing Russian Roulette."
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During pre-production, the producers debated on whether Benjamin Martin would own slaves, ultimately deciding not to make him a slave owner. This decision received criticism from Spike Lee, who in a letter to The Hollywood Reporter accused the film's portrayal of slavery as being "a complete whitewashing of history". Lee wrote that after he and his wife went to see the film, "we both came out of the theater fuming. For three hours The Patriot (2000) dodged around, skirted about, or completely ignored slavery." Mel Gibson himself remarked: "I think I would have made him a slave holder. Not to seems kind of a cop-out."
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The score used in the film is also used as the opening music in the 2004 television series Jack & Bobby (2004). Both featured Logan Lerman, who played Benjamin Martin's youngest son William, and future president Robert (Bobby) McCallister.
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David Arnold, who composed the scores to Roland Emmerich's Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), and Godzilla (1998), created a demo for the film that was ultimately rejected. As a result, David never returned to compose any of Roland's future films, and was replaced by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker.
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Philip Winchester (Benjamin Martin's eldest son) previously appeared in the unrelated film of the same name The Patriot (1998).
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The video game Assassin's Creed III (2012)'s combat system was influenced by the famous tomahawk scene in this movie.
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Colonel Tavington's (Jason Isaacs's) line "Stupid boy!" (about Thomas Martin, whom he'd just shot) was echoed (with exactly the same inflection) by Ralph Fiennes, when Voldemort said, "Stupid girl!" (about Ginny Weasley's outburst) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011).
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Three actors in this film went on to act in three separate Batman adaptations. Donal Logue is in Gotham (2014), Tom Wilkinson was in Batman Begins (2005), and Heath Ledger was in The Dark Knight (2012).
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The theme music was played after President Barack Obama's acceptance speech on election night in 2008.
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Ben Daniels was offered a role, but turned it down.
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This is Chris Cooper's second time playing a Colonel. He was Colonel Frank Fitts in American Beauty (1999).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The character of Colonel Tavington is loosely based on Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was Cornwallis' cavalry commander. Colonel Tarelton had a bad reputation, but some say he was not nearly as cold-hearted and evil as the fictitious Colonel Tavington (though many historians portray them equally). In the movie, Colonel Tavington died at the end of the Battle of Cowpens. The real Banastre Tarleton lived to grow old until 1833, became a General, and even served in the British Parliament.
Benjamin Martin loses two children. Heath Ledger and Skye McCole Bartusiak later died from accidental drug overdoses in real-life.
In an earlier version of the script, Anne is pregnant with Gabriel's child when she dies in the burning church.
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Roland Emmerich previously directed Godzilla (1998), in which Philippe (Jean Reno) says he is a "patriot who love's his country."
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