On location: Hunting Island

A look at the Lowcountry’s starring role in the movies 

Hunting Island

Rules of Engagement (2000)

The cast

Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Hays Hodges, Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Terry Childers, Guy Pearce as Major Mark Biggs, Ben Kingsley as Ambassador Mourain
and Anne Archer as Mrs. Mourain 


In this American war and legal drama film directed by William Friedkin, Col. Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) is a 30-year Marine veteran, a decorated officer with combat experience in Vietnam, Beirut and Desert Storm — a patriot, a hero. But now the country he served so well has put him on trial for a rescue mission that went terribly wrong. He is brought to court-martial after men under Childers’ orders kill many civilians outside the U.S. embassy in Yemen. For his attorney, he has chosen Marine Col. Hays Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones), a comrade-in-arms who owes his life to Childers.

The film’s Vietnam scenes were filmed in 1999 on Hunting Island in northern Beaufort County. The popular state park’s lush, semi-tropical landscape looks similar to the Vietnam jungle and has been used in several films. Using movie magic, filmmakers transformed the south end of the island into the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam. A casting call at The Holiday Inn in Beaufort found locals to portray U.S. Marines and Vietnamese characters.

Film facts

  • Retired Marine captain Dale Dye trained Marine extras day and night on Hunting Island. Dye also was the military adviser for Forrest Gump and worked with Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. The Beaufort International Film Festival awarded Dye the Pat Conroy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. 
  • Extras were not allowed to shave or bathe and many slept on Hunting Island during production.

  • When Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) returns to the bombed-out embassy, there is a picture of then-Vice President Al Gore on the charred wall. Gore and Jones were roommates at Harvard.

Day trip 

Hilton Head Island to Hunting Island 

Drive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes (51.7 miles) via SC-170 and US-21

Travel notes: Admission is $8. Hunting Island is South Carolina’s most popular state park, attracting more than a million visitors a year, as well as a vast array of land and marine wildlife. Five miles of pristine beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon and an ocean inlet are all part of the park’s natural allure.

Watch it

  • HBO Max
  • Hulu

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