Actor Wes Studi has starred in several blockbuster films such as 'Dance with Wolves,' 'The Last of the Mohicans,' 'Heat' and 'Avatar.'

Actor Wes Studi has starred in several blockbuster films such as 'Dance with Wolves,' 'The Last of the Mohicans,' 'Heat' and 'Avatar.'

At an early age, Wes did not dream of becoming an actor. After attending Northeastern University in Tahlequah, he became a professional horse trainer.

In 1983 Studi began acting with the American Indian Theater Company in Tulsa. The first roles were small workshops and plays. His first gig was in 1984 with 'Black Elk Speaks.”

Through all the roles he's played, one of the more challenging aspects is the physical aspect to acting.

“I would say the larger part of the films have been physically challenging,” Studi said. “It's riding horses in the dust and sand and mountains, or running through the humid mountains of the southeastern United States. All the roles have been fairly physically demanding. I wouldn't say one was more than the most.”'

Studi played several Native American roles in his acting career. It is a team effort when it comes to portraying Native American culture accurately, he said.

“I think it's incumbent on everyone, starting with the writer,” Studi said. “Then it involves everyone who has their name in the credits. If it's a historical story, we all have to take into consideration and make sure every aspect is authenticated and part of our history. To tell a story as accurately as possible, is always very important in terms of how your film is received.”

Throughout his television and film career, Studi has worked with some of the top names in Hollywood. From Al Pacino to Kevin Costner, to Daniel Day-Lewis, Studi held his own when it comes to the art of acting. Even though he's shared the screen with these names, he was not intimidated, and if he was, it was at his own accord.

“I felt intimidated myself,” Studi said. “I don't think any of the actors were that way toward me. It could be more of their reputation and could be an intimidating factor for a first time player with actors of this renown.”

Before Studi's career in Hollywood, he served in the United States Army and voluntarily served one tour in South Vietnam as a member of the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta. With his time served, Studi credits this part of his life for changing his perspective on how he perceives the world.

“With a full year of service in Vietnam, I started to look at humanity in a different way,” Studi said. “I began to look at humanity in a different way. Perhaps I lost a bit of respect for we as human beings in terms of knowing what is right and what is wrong and what is human and what is not. I think my ire was brought up a bit in terms of how much political considerations have such an impact on individual lives. It's kind of disheartening to think that we are still doing the same thing over and over again.”

After serving his country and spending time at Northeastern University, Studi was attracted to Native American politics starting in the early early 1970s.

“I learned of the many injustices suffered by our ancestors and things that weren't kosher in terms of how events led us to our position in the world at that time,” Studi said. “When you discover those things, it can actually piss you off.”

Studi joined the American Indian Movement (AIM) and participated in the Trail of Broken Treaties protest march in 1972. He also was one of the protestors who occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs building. In 1973, Studi participated in the occupation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota and was subsequently arrested.

“I don't think I learned anything I didn't already know,” Studi said. “We as Indians are still seen as the 'other' by people in government.”

Currently, Studi remains active and recently participated in a movement at Standing Rock. Studi's passion for Native American's rights is still the same but his age has mellowed him out, he said.

“Maybe I give things a little more thought than I used to,” Studi said. “Other than that, my attitude hasn't changed that much.”

Of the undertakings, Studi is most proud of is his work to preserve indigenous languages. Studi acts as a spokesperson for the Indigenous Language Institute and has been a language consultant in several films, including 'Avatar.”

“I think it's an awful shame for any group of people to lose a form of communication that was developed over centuries,” Studi said. “It may be a losing battle, but in my mind we need to do as much as we can to continue to use what our ancestors passed on to us. I think it's only respectful.”

Currently, Studi is working on a film titled 'Hostiles.' It is directed by Scott Cooper and features Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale and Studi. It is a western-themed film about the conflict between the Cheyenne and the U.S. Army in the 1860s.

“It is a road trip on horseback, and the resulting warfare and conflict between two principles,” Studi said.

For more information on Wes Studi, visit his website www.wesleystudi.com.