Director: Harold Becker
Writter: Devery Freeman (novel) and Robert Mark Kamen
Tom Plays: David Shawn
Status: ON DVD


Military cadets take extreme measures to insure the future of their academy when its existence is threatened by local condo developers.


Factual errors: When all the adult staffers of Bunker Hill Academy are loaded onto the bus, we see a Captain and a few other uniformed soldiers. Bache’s statement that the Cadet Major is only outranked by the commanding general, then, is untrue. Active military personnel outrank ANY cadet in a K-12 military academy.

Continuity: When the two Academy trucks stop at an intersection in town, the first one, which has a narrow front bumper, stalls out. The cadets all leave in the second truck, which has a wide front bumper. A few seconds later, they ram a police cruiser but the truck now has the narrow front bumper.

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): When taking inventory of the armory, the man counting the guns states they are “.45 millimeter caliber 1911’s”. Colt 1911’s are .45acp, not .45 millimeter.


Alex Dwyer: What the hell were you doing back there?
David Shawn: At least I had your ass over the grinder and it’s okay enough to thank me, shithead!
Brian Moreland: Hut! What’s the problem?
Alex Dwyer: The problem is that this asshole just shot the town!

David Shawn: Hey, Brian, Dungeons and Dragons game tonight?
Brian Moreland: Nah, not tonight, Shawn.
Alex Dwyer: Nice of you to ask.
David Shawn: [gives Dwyer the finger] Alex Dwyer: Have a good day.

David Shawn: Brian, Dungeons and Dragons game tonight?
Brian Moreland: Can’t.
[David flips Alex the finger] Alex Dwyer: Have a good day.

[Firing machine gun] David Shawn: It’s beautiful, man!

David Shawn: [about firing his assault rifle at the townies and cops, to facilitate their escape] I saw my duty, and I did it.


Prior to the production of the film, the key actors -Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and others – were required to participate in a 45-day-long period of orientation with the students of Valley Forge Military Academy. They were given uniforms, borrowed from their real life counterparts at the school and given authentic military haircuts. They slept in campus barracks and were subjected to the same rigors and hardship that all Valley Forge cadets went through. While most of the actors enjoyed and excelled at their orientation, Cruise opted to leave the training for the comforts of a nearby hotel until filming began.

The uniforms in the movie were the normal uniforms worn by cadets. The embroidered shoulder badges of “Valley Forge” were changed during filming to “Bunker Hill”. Then, the cadets of the Academy had no camouflage fatigues as a uniform. Filming continued into the summer after cadets’ school year was over.

Foley recording of cadets was done during filming during normal daily activities. Cadet marching was recorded during parade practice, requiring extra marching by cadets and adding to the disruption of daily life.

Due to the 1980 Screen Actors Guild writer’s strike, filming on the campus of Valley Forge Military Academy took much longer (60 days) than originally planned. It caused such a disruption that the commandant of the school subsequently advised his colleagues not to allow film productions at their schools. The next year both Valley Forge and the Citadel military academies denied filmmakers of The Lords of Discipline access to their grounds, leading it to be filmed in England instead.

This was the last film to actually be filmed at the Valley Forge Military Academy due to its logistical problems which left a foul reputation on the school and subsequently denied another film taking place at a Military Academy, The Lords of Discipline, which came out two years later to be shot there and shoot in England.

This is Sean Penn’s film debut. Penn was casted by Casting Director Shirley Rich in New York after seeing him in off Broadway play.

More than 2000 actors auditioned for Sean Penn’s role, which he won after being discovered in fiery performance in an off-Broadway play by casting Director Shirley Rich.

The rainy weather caused numerous problems during filming. Director Harold Becker had to create four sets of call sheets for each day’s shooting in case a scene taking place outdoors would be rained out and interior shoot would take its place. It also was very noticeable in the editing of the film, as cadets are seen wearing ponchos in one scene and none the next.

Ronny Cox was Harold Becker’s original choice to play Colonel, but another unnamed actor was chosen and then fired two days into shooting his scenes. Producer Stanley R. Jaffe immediately called Cox, who flew down the very next day to begin shooting his scenes.

Tom Cruise was originally going to play a background character in the film, but Director Harold Becker was so impressed by the way he conducted himself as one of the military cadets during rehearsals that he was offered the part of David Shawn. At first Cruise refused and then was finally convinced by Becker and Producer Stanley R. Jaffe play the role.

Timothy Hutton accepted his Academy Award for Ordinary People immediately after shooting on Taps begin.

The film was originally developed at Columbia Pictures by Producer Stanley R. Jaffe, but ran into a series of creative problems with the studio and it was one of many projects that went into “turnaround” under their banner. Jaffe was passionate about the project and then took it to Twentieth Century-Fox, who bought the script and immediately green-lit the project.

One of many projects that were delayed by the 1980 strike by the Screen Actor’s Guild, which was finally settled late that year. T.A.P.S. immediately started filming in January 1981.

he scene where Timothy Hutton and Ronny Cox’s characters are discussing terms was shot with three to four cameras, one of them operated by Director of Photography Owen Roizman. Roizman made a bet with Director Harold Becker for $75.00 that his close-up shots would make the final cut of the film. It was Roizman’s tight close up shots that made the final cut of the film, and Roizman who is $75.00 richer.

Director of Photography Owen Roizman made a bet with Director Harold Becker for $75.00, that his close up shots during the scene where Timothy Hutton and Ronny Cox are talking at the gate, would make the final cut of the film. Becker told him that they wouldn’t. Roizman won the bet as his shots made it in the final cut of the film.

The gate seen at the end of the quad area was built specifically for the film and was dismantled after filming ended.

The exterior shots of the film were shot at Valley Forge, but the interiors (including General Basche’s office) were shot on sets built in Vally Forge’s massive Polo field by Alfred Sweeney and Stan Jolley.

Sean Penn and a handful of other actors received military horsemanship training for the scenes as the leader of the school’s mounted cavalry. He later stated “It’s not like riding out on a backwoods trail-The trick is to salute, control the horse, keep in step with the other riders and try not to fall off.”


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