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  • Roger W. Downes

How A Movie Actor Makes A Difference

Inspiring both on and off the big screen, he leaves a legacy of love and inspiration

Your steps start to slow, your breath deepens while your eyes wander upward as you press on against the incline. The climb isn’t unbearable but certainly noticeable to the less adventure bound. Then you reach it, the look out to Triple Falls in the DuPont State Recreational Forest, just one of three falls within a two-mile hike along the trail named after the majesty that now lays before you in the river basin below.


After snapping a few selfies with family and friends in front of the falls, you’ll discover a pavilion just up from the lookout offering shelter and rest for any weary hiker. As you find your spot in the pavilion’s large open shade while the wet breezes from the falls cool your face, you’d probably never think of how a blockbuster motion picture along with Triple Falls encouraged one local teacher to build the pavilion you now sit underneath, until now.


Hear our interview with Last of the Mohicans actor Eric Hurley


This story takes us back about thirty years ago when an ad ran in the local papers looking for extras to fill spots in a motion picture to be shot in the DuPont State Recreational Forest. The film entitled Last of the Mohicans would star Daniel Day Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Jodhi May and 24-year-old Western North Carolinian, Eric Hurley. You probably recognize the names and accomplishments of some of the actors from Hollywood, but Eric Hurley has positively impacted Western North Carolina the most.


In Last of the Mohicans, Hurley played British Soldier Number Two who was shot and killed in the waterfall scene. When we asked him during his interview for the Explore with RWD podcast what his favorite part of being on set was, Hurley replied it wasn’t in front of the cameras but rather during the downtime on set when he and his new friends could blow off some steam by wrestling around or playing football with the prop cannon balls.


Eric Hurley accompanied by his wife Leigh Ann, photo: Eric Hurley


When they were back in front of the cameras, the cast found themselves shooting at several waterfalls in the DuPont State Recreational Forest, including Triple Falls which helped to increase a love of the forest in Hurley. He has carried that passion with him throughout his life and now finds a very special way of inspiring that same spirit in others.


Before we get to that part of the story, Hurley did praise his fellow big-name actors by saying he cherished the chance to visit with Daniel Day Lewis during the final days of filming the waterfall scene, because Lewis was kind, respectful and treated him as equal. Hurley was impressed with how down to earth and personable all the stars were and was delighted with how they remembered him years later when they had the chance to meet up again.


As impressed as Hurley was by their kindness and humble words, I am going to venture to say they probably paid him such admiration because they recognized his amazing character and dedication, which would later spill over to influencing the lives of rising stars in Western North Carolina. You see with a budding family at the time Hurley couldn’t take off to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting, instead he turned to teaching construction at local trade schools and colleges such as AB Tech. Maybe his career choice wasn’t as glamorous as Hollywood but certainly much more important.



This is where Hurley’s dedication and character truly made an impact to benefit Western North Carolina. Over his teaching career Hurley has gone above and beyond the call of duty for his students, spending countless hours helping them to overcome challenges in both their professional and personal lives while being the only mentor some of them have ever had. After chatting with him I am sure that he has changed many lives for the better giving his students the skills and belief in themselves to accomplish their goals and reach multiple tiers of success.


Then there is his love of the DuPont State Recreational Forest which brings you back to sitting peacefully under the shade of the Triple Falls Pavilion. As you catch your breath and relax after the short climb up the incline to the pavilion, understand that its construction also sparked a fire in the souls of the young carpenters who build it. You see the crowning jewel of Hurley’s legacy is the fact he brings his students out each year to use their new skill sets to improve the forest he fell even more passionately in love with while shooting Last of the Mohicans.


Even the steps that you’ll traverse just up from the pavilion to the second tier of Triple Falls was built by his students. Poetically one of Hurley’s final lessons to his pupils is a love for the great outdoors and a desire to give back to their community through construction. I can only imagine how proud each of his students will be years from now when they bring their children back to the forest to spark their love of nature, as Hurley did with them, and to explain how they helped to build one of the many DuPont State Recreational Forest assets.


Yes, Hurley could have taken off to Hollywood but as a lover of the people and places in and around DuPont I am sure glad he didn’t.

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Thank you for taking the time to read about the adventures I take, the people I meet and the places I see.  

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