I knew that in telling a story of historical fiction, that the history had better be right. I spent several months researching the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the people who fought and died there. I not only wanted to get the facts right (the times of day, the weapons, the factual elements of how the men died), but more importantly I wanted to know how they thought about each other. What was a young cavalry soldier's perception of Indians? What did the Indians think about the soldiers?
So I read their own stories. I was able to find many diaries of men who lived and fought throughout that period. The Indian side of things was a bit more difficult, but thanks to one man, I was able to gain great insights. Dr. Thomas Marquis was an obscure, dedicated physician who for many years in the first quarter of this century worked among the Cheyenne on their reservation in Montana. He befriended the aged Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow veterans of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He learned their sign language and they told him their stories of that day and he wrote them down and published them. These accounts are the very core of the film. Each piece of action in the opening sequence comes from something that was related to Dr, Marquis by the Indians who were there.
There was also no way I could have written this without learning more about the place and the two cultures that clash in this story. John Doerner, chief historian at the Little Big Horn National Monument generously shared his time and perceptions and I spent several days with him at the battlefield in Montana, learning all I could about the men who fought there. What was amazing about John's answers to my endless questions was that he knew how these men thought and felt. His years of living with this event have put him inside the head of a 7th cavalry soldier, so he came from a place of not only facts, but also emotions.
With my research complete I set about writing the script, not only telling a story of these two characters in 1876, but creating a story that transcends that time and place, bridges the 126 years and speaks a message that is relevant today. I want audiences to admire the courage with which Goes Alone (the Lakota boy) goes against what he has been taught and sets out to discover who this white man really is. Perhaps the lesson that will be taken away by young people, all people who watch the film, is to make your own judgment of a person and not believe what you have been told. Don't be afraid to go against the crowd and be your own person.
- Gabe Torres, writer/director of LAST STAND