Published on February 19, 2012 by Amy
Wesley “Wes” Studi (born December 17, 1947) is a Cherokee actor, who has earned notability for his portrayal of Native Americans in film. He has appeared in well-received Academy Award-winning films, such as Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves, Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans (1992), the award-winning Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) and the Academy Award-nominated film The New World (2005). He most recently portrayed General Linus Abner (an analogue to the biblical Abner) in the NBC series Kings, and Eytukan in James Cameron’s box office blockbuster Avatar.
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Studi was born Wesley Studie in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, the son of Maggie, a housekeeper, and Andy Studie, a ranch hand. Studi was schooled atChilocco Indian Agricultural School in Northern Oklahoma. Until he attended grade school, he spoke only Cherokee. In 1967, he was drafted into the Armyand served 18 months in Vietnam. After his discharge, Studi studied at Tulsa Junior College.
Studi became an actor. He is best known for his roles as brave and ruthless Indians, such as the Pawnee warrior in Dances with Wolves, and Magua in The Last of the Mohicans (1992).
A year later, he was cast with Eric Schweig for TNT’s film The Broken Chain which was shot in Virginia. In 1993 Studi had the lead in Geronimo: An American Legend. He showed a talent for comedy as the “terribly mysterious” superhero Sphynx in the 1999 film Mystery Men. In 2002, Studi brought to life the legendary character Lt. Joe Leaphorn, for a series of PBS movies based on Tony Hillerman’s novels and produced by Robert Redford.
In 2005, Studi portrayed a character based on the Powhatan chief Opechancanough in The New World. The 2005 Academy Award-nominated film was directed by Terrence Malick.
On April 20, 2009 Studi appeared as Major Ridge in Trail of Tears, the third episode of We Shall Remain, a ground-breaking mini-series that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history, in PBS’s acclaimed series American Experience. He spoke his native Cherokee throughout his performance. Also in 2009, Studi appeared in James Cameron’s science fiction epicAvatar, as Eytukan, the chieftain of a Na’vi tribe called the Omaticaya clan.
Studi won a Western Heritage Award (shared with cast and crew) in 1994 for Geronimo: An American Legend. 2005, The New World was nominated for an Academy Award.