Published on December 7, 2010 by John
Will Sampson (September 27, 1933 – June 3, 1987) was an American actor and artist.
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Sampson, a Native American Muscogee (Creek), was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Sampson’s most notable roles were as “Chief Bromden” in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and as “Taylor the Medicine Man” in the horror film Poltergeist II. He had a recurring role on the TV series Vega$, as Harlon Twoleaf and starred in the movies Fish Hawk, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Orca.
Sampson appeared in the production of Black Elk Speaks with the American Indian Theater Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma where David Carradine and other Native American actors like Wes Studi and Randolph Mantooth starred in stage productions.
Sampson was also an artist. His large painting depicting the Ribbon Dance of his Muscogee people is in the collection of the Creek Council House Museum in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. His artwork is currently displayed online by The Kvskvnv (“kuskuna”) Association.
In an interview in TV Ontario’s series Film 101, “Hollywood Asylum, Explored or exploited?”, film actor Brad Dourif (who played Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) stated that Sampson had been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. After he was pardoned, after serving ten years, his release came without apology or compensation. Sampson reportedly observed the cast on set and noted, based on behavior, that only he and Dourif truly understood what it meant to be institutionalized.
In need of a heart and liver transplant, he died on June 3, 1987 of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems. Sampson was 53 years old. He was buried in Hitchita’s Graves Creek Cemetery.
|1975||Crazy Mama||Indian at Trading||Uncredited Role|
|One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest||Chief Bromden|
|1976||Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson||The Interpreter/William Halsey|
|The Outlaw Josey Wales||Ten Bears|
|1977||Cowboysan||Indian Chief||Short film|
|The White Buffalo||Crazy Horse/Worm|
|1979||Fish Hawk||Fish Hawk|
|1986||Poltergeist II: The Other Side||Taylor|
|1977||Relentless||Sam Watchman||CBS TV-Movie|
|The Hunted Lady||Uncle George||NBC TV-Movie|
|1978||Standing Tall||Lonny Moon||NBC TV-Movie|
|1978–1979||Vega$||Harlon Two-Leaf||6 episodes|
|1979||From Here to Eternity||Sgt. Cheney||NBC Miniseries later adapted to TV series|
|1980||Alcatraz: The White Shocking Story||Clarence’s Father||NBC TV-Movie|
|1982||Born to the Wind||Painted Bear|
|1983–1984||The Yellow Rose||John Strongheart||7 episodes|
|1984||The Mystic Warrior||Evan Freed||ABC Miniseries|
|1985||Wildside||Fake Sitting Bull||Episode: Buffalo Who?|
|Tall Tales & Legends||Chief||Episode: Johnny Appleseed|
|1987||The Gunfighters||Train Passenger||TV-Movie|
1980: Nominated, “Best Performance by a Foreign Actor” – Fish Hawk