Farewell to the King (1989)

Farewell to the King (1989)

Taglines: In the midst of war, one man vanished into the jungle, and emerged as king.

An American soldier who escapes the execution of his comrades by Japanese soldiers in Borneo during WWII becomes the leader of a personal empire among the headhunters in this war story told in the style of Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling. The American is reluctant to rejoin the fight against the Japanese on the urging of a British commando team but conducts a war of vengeance when the Japanese attack his adopted people.

Farewell to the King is a 1989 American action adventure drama film written and directed by John Milius. It stars Nick Nolte, Nigel Havers, Frank McRae, and Gerry Lopez and is loosely based on the 1969 novel L’Adieu au Roi by Pierre Schoendoerffer. Longtime Milius collaborator Basil Poledouris composed the musical score.

About the Filming Locations and Original Novel

Filming started 24 August 1987. The film was shot on location in Borneo (Bau, Kuching, Sarawak). Nolte arrived in Borneo a month before filming began.

“”We could have shot this film in the Philippines for a lot less money,” he says. “But this is where it happened. These are the real people. These are real Iban. This is the land of Rajah Brooke. You know, the older I get, the more I feel I am like a Viking.”

Farewell to the King (1989)

“This is a tough film, but you kind of like the toughness of it here,” said Milius on location. “This is an adventure. If you’re a romantic like me, you think of yourself out building the Panama Canal, or being the Rajah Brooke. You can’t think of that if you’re in a rainstorm in the San Fernando Valley.” Milius’ then girlfriend played Haver’s fiancee.

Pierre Schoendoerffer originally wrote the story as a film script. He then turned it into a novel, which was published in 1969 and became a best seller in France, selling over 300,000 copies in hard back. He made the lead character Irish because “the Irish are mad and I like mad people.”

“I was wanting to make a great symphonic book on life and death : on how a man can struggle until the very end, without hope and without reason, just to be alive, even though half dead., even though suffering terribly, because life is so powerful. But on the other hand I was wanting to show that if suddenly a man discovers that he is not fulfilling his dream, then he does not want to live anymore.”

The story had some basis in historical fact – a white man did live with the Dayaks during World War II and the Dayaks did fight the Japanese.

Farewell to the King Movie Poster (1989)

Farewell to the King (1989)

Directed by: John Milius
Starring: Nick Nolte, Nigel Havers, Frank McRae, Gerry Lopez, Marilyn Tokuda, Chang Wing Choy, Aki Aleong, Marius Weyers, Wayne Pygram, Richard Morgan
Screenplay by: John Milius
Production Design by: Gil Parrondo
Cinematography by: Dean Semler
Film Editing by: Anne V. Coates, Carroll Timothy O’Meara
Costume Design by: David Rowe
Set Decoration by: Bernard Hides
Art Direction by: Bernard Hides
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: March 3, 1989