The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) Poster


The rifle used by Val Kilmer is a "Lee Speed" sporter, most likely in .303 caliber. The movie rifle is historically correct and most likely came from a South African movie prop supply house. BSA made these rifles from 1892 until at least the 1930s in .303, 7mm, and 8mm. BSA offered several different versions and options on these rifles. The term "Lee Speed" was used for commercial rifles. These rifles were mostly manufactured by the BSA Company, who also made Gov't rifles (Lee-Enfield Mk1 NoIII being the most common) and had the machinery in place to make sporting versions.
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There is only one scene involving an animatronic lion. All the other shots were used using two real life lions named Bongo and Caeser. The same lions also appeared in the film George of the Jungle (1997).
Director Stephen Hopkins said in 1999 interview with SFX magazine how making of The Ghost and the Darkness was his worst experience as a filmmaker, "a true nightmare". Michael Douglas, who was producing the film, decided at last minute to play the Remington character. But even before filming began the working relationship between Douglas and Hopkins was very tense. Douglas even went and had the movie completely re-cut in post production removing 45 minutes of scenes in order for him to have more screen time. This also explains story parts that go nowhere and plot holes that the movie has. Like for example, a part where the story jumps from having only few people killed by lions only for characters in next scenes mentioning how the number of people dead is much bigger. Hopkins expressed disappointment with the final cut of the film.
The location where the bridge was built is now called Man-Eater's Junction, after the two lions. It is in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, about 200 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of Nairobi.
Despite receiving a mix critical response the film won an Academy Award for Sound Editing and gained a cult following.
William Goldman first heard about the story when travelling in Africa in 1984, and thought it would make a good script. In 1989 he pitched the story to Paramount as a cross between Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Jaws (1975), and they commissioned him to write a screenplay which he delivered in 1990.
Despite having top billing, Michael Douglas doesn't appear on screen until 45 minutes into the movie.
Director Stephen Hopkins said about filming: "We had snake bites, scorpion bites, tick bite fever, people getting hit by lightning, floods, torrential rains and lightning storms, hippos chasing people through the water, cars getting swept into the water and several deaths of crew members including two drownings... Val came to the set under the worst conditions imaginable he was completely exhausted from doing The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) he was dealing with the unfavorable publicity from that set, he was going through a divorce he barely had time to get his teeth into this role before we started filming, and he is in nearly every scene in this movie but I worked him 6 or 7 days a week for 4 months under really adverse conditions and he really came through, he had a passion for this film."
The book, The Maneaters of Tsavo, is still available after nearly 100 years, and well worth reading.
Many Maasai characters in the film were actually portrayed by South African actors, although the Maasai depicted during the hunt were portrayed by real Maasai warriors who were hired for the movie.
In the early '90s, when Brian De Palma was chosen to direct the film, Kevin Costner was going to star as Patterson. However when The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) proved to be a box office disaster the studio withdrew their offer to De Palma and Costner went on to do The Bodyguard (1992).
The film was shot mainly on location at Songimvelo Game Reserve in South Africa, rather than Kenya, due to tax laws.
Val Kilmer was studying his part in this movie while in a batcave when he found out he got the part of Batman in Batman Forever (1995).
The part of Remington was originally offered to Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins but both declined; the producers were considering asking Gérard Depardieu when Michael Douglas, initially hired as a producer, decided to play the role himself.
In early drafts of the script, Remington was originally going to be an enigmatic figure but when Michael Douglas chose to play him, the character's role was expanded and was given a history. In William Goldman's book Which Lie Did I Tell?, the screenwriter argues that Douglas' decision ruined the mystery of the character, making him a wimp and a loser.
William Goldman's inspiration for Charles Remington was Burt Lancaster.
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Theatrical trailer shows two alternate scenes; Alternate take and angle of the scene where Samuel says "They are not lions, they are the ghost and the darkness" and alternate close up angles of Patterson and Remington during the scene where they are preparing trap for lions and are talking about how many people did the lions killed. Making of documentary shows following deleted scenes: Samuel saying "If we stay, we will all die" (it looks like this was part of his same alternate scene shown in trailer), Samuel and Patterson standing on the bridge and looking at jungle when Samuel asks Patterson "Do you know what Tsavo means?" when Patterson says no Samuel says "The place of slaughter", alternate/additional narration by Samuel about the story of two lions where he says "This is the most famous true story of Africa. But even now, when children ask about it, you do not tell them at night", extended dialogue in scene where Remington and Patterson first meet and Remington says one extra line "Stay out of my way".
The rifle that Doctor Hawthorne uses is a rare Farquharson rifle.
The rifle Remington uses is a Holland & Holland double rifle.
First cinema feature of Emily Mortimer.
Director Stephen Hopkins said in a 1998 interview that the film "was a mess... I haven't been able to watch it."
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There is another reason that may have driven the lions to eating humans. With the prevalence of shallow graves in the area due to a cholera outbreak these graves were easy to dig up. Coupled with their now recognized dental disease, human flesh was an easy target.
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Kenneth Branagh was approached to direct after the success of Henry V (1989).
Charles Remington was based on Anglo-Indian big game hunter Charles Ryall, superintendent of the Railway Police.
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Paramount originally wanted Michael Mann to direct.
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Director Stephen Hopkins wanted his longtime collaborator Peter Levy to be the film's cinematographer, but he was overruled by the studio, who wanted to hire Vilmos Zsigmond.
Val Kilmer who was a frequent visitor to Africa expressed enthusiasm for the script, which enabled the project to be financed.
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The film claims that Tsavo means "place of slaughter" Tsavo is the Akamba word for 'Slaughter' the region has been referred to as "a place of Slaughter" due to a history of tribal Warfare between the Maasai and the Akamba.
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Paramount wanted Tom Cruise to star as Remington, but he turned it down.
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This is the only movie that Jerry Goldsmith composed for Stephen Hopkins. The ones before this film were scored by Alan Silvestri.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

After the lions were killed, their skins were used as rugs by Col. Patterson. They were later sold to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, who had them stuffed and placed on display. Because they were originally used as rugs with resulting deterioration of the hides, the lions are much smaller than they originally were.
Michael Douglas' character Remington is fictionalized. Val Kilmer's character John Patterson killed both lions.
The real Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson published a book about his experiences, titled "The Man-Eaters of Tsavo."
The Lions of Tsavo were maneless, perhaps due to environmental variables, although maneless lions are not unique to Tsavo. Their taste for man may have been due to an outbreak of Rinderpest at the time, which may have depleted their normal prey. The legend surrounding this event is almost entirely based on the books written by Patterson which became run-away best sellers for their day, and made Patterson a good bit of money. It is possible, if not probable, the count of 140 deaths may have been trumped up a bit. Patterson certainly set himself up as the hero of the story, which certainly fit in with the Western notion of the "great white hunter" of the period. It is known that he killed both lions (both nearly nine feet long), and that they did indeed kill and eat humans. It is also possible that they did this because they may not have been able to kill and eat their normal prey as the jaws of the two show some sign of unusual dental disease. They now reside in the permanent collection of the Field Museum of Chicago, but the government of Kenya is moving to try to obtain the pair.
Lt. Col. Patterson owned the skins and skulls of the two Tsavo man-eaters. In 1924, Patterson sold them to the Field Museum in Chicago for $5,000.
In original drafts Remington was called Redbeard, and William Goldman says his purpose in the story was to create an imposing character who could be killed by the lions and make Patterson seem more brave.
Patterson was not an engineer; he didn't design or draw any plans for the bridge. He was commissioned by the Uganda Railway committee in London to oversee the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River. (biography quote). His son, Bryan, was born in 1909, hence, his wife's arrival, holding son high, etc. is just screenwriter's addition to the film. The bridge was finished in February of 1899.

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