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Wes Studi starred for James Cameron in the award-winning epic Avatar, which became the highest-grossing movie of all time.
The native Oklahoman and full-blooded Cherokee is a sculptor, musician, author, and activist. After serving in Vietnam, he joined the American Indian Movement and worked closely with the Cherokee Nation.
A stint as a professional horse trainer overlapped with the start of his acting career at The American Indian Theatre Company in Tulsa in 1983. His first professional stage debut was in Black Elk Speaks. Roles in productions for Nebraska Public Television followed. Mr. Studi’s first features were Jonathan Wacks’ Powwow Highway and Marshall Jamison’s telefilm The Trial of Standing Bear.
He next starred in three memorable movies. These were the blockbuster Dances with Wolves, which won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director (Kevin Costner); Oliver Stone’s The Doors, with Val Kilmer; and The Last of the Mohicans, in which Mr. Studi memorably incarnated Magua opposite Daniel Day-Lewis for director Michael Mann. He would again collaborate with the latter on Heat, which starred Al Pacino and Robert De Niro of Being Flynn.
He shared a Western Heritage Award with the cast and crew of Walter Hill’s Geronimo: An American Legend, in which he played the title role. He has since starred in, among other features, Terrence Malick’s The New World, alongside August Schellenberg and Q’orianka Kilcher; Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising; Undisputed, reteaming him with Walter Hill; David Von Ancken’s Seraphim Falls; and Yves Simoneau’s telefilm Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which won 6 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Made For Television Movie.
Mr. Studi incarnated author Tony Hillerman’s legendary character Lt. Joe Leaphorn for a trio of telefilms produced by Robert Redford; Coyote Waits, Skinwalkers, and A Thief of Time, directed by Jan Egleson and Chris Eyre, respectively.
An internationally recognized expert in indigenous languages, he has worked as a language consultant on several movies, including Avatar and the documentary We Shall Remain. For the Cherokee Bilingual/Cross Cultural Education Center, he authored the children’s books The Adventures of Billy Bean and The Further Adventures of Billy Bean.
In 2006, Mr. Studi was honored with the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Golden Boot Award. With his wife Maura Dhu as lead singer, he plays the bass guitar in the band Firecat of Discord.