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"It's Always Nice To Go Home Again!"


This interview with Wes Studi was conducted on May 8, 1999. We've always felt that Wes' performance in The Last of the Mohicans was one of the very strongest, if not THE strongest, of the film. After interviewing the man, we now know why. He has a very firm grasp on what it is he is trying to accomplish, whether it be the depth of emotions his character feels, or the overall story a film is seeking to put forth. He understands and incorporates the complete picture and has the ability to empathize with and project the complexities of the human condition. Talented on so many levels, Wes Studi is as personable as he is gifted.

We wish to thank Mr. Studi for his time and for freely offering his insights on many, many issues. He is a well-balanced, reasonable, farsighted individual. For us it was a pleasure. He is a pleasant, gracious, fascinating person.



Mohican Press: Hello, Wes. How are you?

Wes Studi: I�m good! And yourself?

MP: Fine, thank you. Are you ready?

WS: Yeah.

MP: Let�s start with your background. Where and when were you born? Could you tell us a little about that?

WS: Okay. Well, I was born in northeastern Oklahoma, to a totally Cherokee family ... that would be the language of the day, first language .... my first language is Cherokee. I was born in what is called a hollow in Oklahoma. I don�t know if you�re familiar with ... where are you from?

MP: New York.

WS: Oh, you�re from New York! Okay, they�re like more like arroyos ... valleys. In any case, this one just happened to be called Nofire Hollow, just for the fact that the larger part of the area was made up of my mother�s family ... which is NOFIRE ... northeastern Oklahoma. Between Tahlequah, which is the capitol of the Cherokee Nation, and Stilwell. It�s an area that�s populated by Cherokees. That was in 1946.

MP: Oh, we had you down as being born in 1947.

WS: Well, we�re not really sure. {Laughs}

MP: Cherokee was your first language & English came along later. Is that correct?

WS: That�s right.

MP: Would that have been when you went to school?

WS: Yeah.

MP: Do you have brothers or sisters?

WS: I have three ... had three brothers. I have two brothers now.

MP: You attended the Chilocco Boarding school?

WS: Yes. I only attended High School there.

Wes Studi Collage
Photo design courtesy of ImageSwim

MP: At the Red Earth Festival in �98 you related a story about your vocational teacher �s advice. "One man who was my vocational teacher told me and the whole class, 'When you leave this school, you'll go out into the world, and you might as well settle with the idea that you're going to be some kind of worker, and a low-paid one at that. This is about all you can expect out there in life, so get good at this.�� You added, "I think I lived in the shadow of that statement for years."

WS: Yeah. I think that stayed with me for years. Sure. He was an influential part of ... you know, older people there ... whether we liked what we heard or not ... and yeah, I think that he was probably right. This was 1960 somewhat and I think it was probably true at that time. So ... luckily, things change.

MP: So, his statement would have been representative of the expectations, especially for Indian youth, at that time and place? An honest statement?

WS: Yes, I think so. It was expectations that were grounded in reality.

MP: How did you take that statement and turn it into something positive? You obviously climbed far above that.

WS: Well, no, I more or less thought this was the case and that�s the kind of things that I did for a large part of my younger life. It wasn�t until a number of years later ... I was late thirties or thereabouts before I even attempted anything that was ... something I was capable of.

MP: You said you attended Chilocco only for High School. During the grade school years, did you attend a local school?

WS: Actually I went to a number of local schools. My father had also gone to Chilocco and that was one of the reasons I wanted to go to school there ... was that he had gone there ... You know, that was part of it, like �my son� ... it was a big part of wanting to go ... He had worked ... well, he had learned ... what he studied there was agriculture. He came out of high school there and about the best type of job he could find was as a hand. Not even a foreman, maybe a foreman�s assistant. That was the best type of job that was available from that training. He knew a LOT about planting and animal husbandry. So ... the best job he could find was as a ranch hand. But we moved around to a lot of ranches where he worked so I went to a lot of different public schools.

MP: Chilocco was a boarding school, right?

WS: Yeah, it�s closed now.

MP: You said it�s closed. We�ve read there was a drug treatment facility on the site of the school.

WS: Yeah, you see it�s owned by about five different small tribes in northern Oklahoma and they lease it to the Scientologists who put in one of their drug treatment facilities, or something like that ... kind of an off limits type of a place ... not a place you want to go visit a lot, but I went there in 1980 when the school was actually closed ... it was a government school.

MP: It was a government school on land that was owned by the five tribes?

WS: It was leased, the land itself ... the land itself was leased by the government ... or, taken over by the government actually, for a boarding school. The area around it ... a lot of the area around it is actually owned by the Cherokee Nation but it�s mainly underdeveloped farmland. So, when the school closed, the tribes took over the building ... that area of it and the Cherokee Nation took over parts.

MP: Did you have good or bad experiences at Chilocco?

WS: I had a bit of both. Good and bad.

MP: What about exposure to music and the arts while there; was that something you were exposed to?

WS: Yeah! Actually, the first couple of years there I played in the band. They had a music program and a marching band. I tried out a trumpet, then I played a clarinet. I wound up on a bass clarinet ... you know, at the time it was kind of odd because I was small during most of my time at high school and a bass clarinet is kind of a tall, long instrument ... maybe three feet tall. But, anyway, I used to march in the band with the bass clarinet for the Chilocco Braves, I think they were called.

MP: What about exposure to arts through your family? You have obvious talents in many artistic fields - was this a part of your childhood?

WS: Well, other than the band, not really. No, I actually didn�t take part in that much ... in artistic endeavors other than the music, which I stopped after awhile ... Then after school, I more or less dropped it. I didn�t really pick up on it again until after I decided to become an actor.

MP: When did you come to that point?

WS: About �81.

MP: That was with theatre?

WS: Yeah.

MP: We understand you were instrumental in creating a Cherokee newspaper.

WS: Yes, that was in the �70s. I had been living in Tulsa sometime after I had left high school. ... Oh, about �73 or thereabouts, I went back to live in Tahlequah. I began to work with the Cherokee Nation and it was kind of a momentous time for the tribal government then. It was understanding how to sort of flex its political muscle ... using ... developing from within, more or less ... a new constitution was even worked on and at the time the arm of the government had wanted to get the word out about the new constitution and the direction that the Cherokee Nation intended to go in ... the consent of the people was needed so a number of us had studied a bit of journalism ... the study was made up of actually working at it ... actually putting one together ... and we more or less put together what is now The Cherokee Advocate.

{Note: The Cherokee Nation created their own system of government in 1820, modeled after the U.S. Democratic Republic, in which the people elect a principal chief, a senate, and a house of representatives. In 1827, the Nation incorporated and drafted the Cherokee constitution.}

MP: And it�s still in print?

WS: Yes.

MP: Did you write articles for The Advocate?

WS: I wrote articles as a reporter as well I had a column called Anyway, James which actually was sort of a like a paper editorial ... they didn�t mind for quite awhile but I became, as time went on, sort of ... in my mind I was playing devil�s advocate. You know? And so, I was, many times critical of tribal government�s decisions and attitudes toward mainly the full blood communities, which had sort of a negative view of the tribal government. So my article, my column Anyway, James began to lean sort of ... anti-government. So, that drove my decision that the Cherokee Nation and I should part company.

MP: Why was it called Anyway, James?

WS: �Anyway� - you know, at the time ... you know how people say �it�s like this, it�s like that�? Well, at the time people were saying �anyway� ... just something to tie a sentence together. Anyway! So, Anyway, James it was called.

MP: And your column was looked upon as a liability?

WS: We looked upon it as ... I wasn�t helping the government go in the direction they wanted to move and vice versa ... and I was trying to speak my mind, as well as speak for others who were ... well, it was just a political difference.

MP: Was the paper printed in Cherokee or in English?

WS: Printed in English mainly. There were parts of it, now and then, written in syllabary.

{Note: The Cherokee syllabary is an 85 character script invented in 1825 by Sequoya. The first Indian newspaper was published in 1828 - the Cherokee Phoenix.}

MP: This was in the �70s?

WS: Yes, it was in the �70s.

MP: You are also a Vietnam War vet?

WS: Yes.

MP: Was there anything particularly memorable that you experienced that really stuck with you?

WS: Yeah. I�ve told this story before ... I served with the 9th Division in the Delta area of South Vietnam and ... {Laughs} Actually, I remember a number of things, but one thing that has stayed with me is that I think government policy sort of really entailed a lot of things ... a very good memory, as well, because, at one time ... First of all, there were only three of us, in my entire company, that were Native American. One day, the three of us found out that, for no particular reason, we had the day off. And everybody else, more or less, had gone off on this mission to do something ... I don�t know, whatever it was that they told us, really, �You guys just go and take the day off.� We found out the next day what the mission had been. It was to go in and relocate an entire small town. A village, I guess you�d call it, a small village, but ... They went in with very long helicopters ... I forget what you call them ...with this huge net, spread them out, and told the entire village to put all their belongings in there. So they loaded up and moved them all to a different area and told them this was their home now. The only thing that I can of course equate to that was the fact of the removal that we, as Cherokees had... and these other guys probably had similar things as well ... So, I figure that the Army and the U. S. Government, either by mistake or a darn good memory, gave us the day off. Make sense to you?

MP: I don�t know if the army is that sensitive, but it�s almost like they felt that was something you wouldn�t be able to do.

WS: Ahhh, sensitive is not ... I think it�s a matter of, you know ... Seeing something like that might give people problems ... anyway ..

MP: So, what�s your take on that? Did they think you might rebel against that?

WS: That�s the only thing I could figure. Rebel, or we wouldn�t be of any help to them ... I think I could see their reasoning on that. Not that I agree. These things keep happening over & over.

MP: So, you got out of the army ... what did you do for a living then?

WS: {Laughs} After the army, I drifted around for a couple of years. Did practically nothing, other than drifting around and surviving. You know, I didn�t want to live at home. I didn�t want to go out and really do anything either ... like getting a job ... so sedentary. So, I just sort of floated around for a couple of years and visited my old Vietnam buddies ... hitchhiked around .... I didn�t want to think about anything ... just traveled around ... til I kind of �come to� ... and, well, it was a difficult re-entry into the states at the time. There was such hostility. Such hostility and demonization going on toward people who had been there and come back. People on the right said; �Good boy, That�s a good, good boy. Now go get yourself a job.� and all that. Then there were the people on the left saying �baby killer� or �you�re sick, you�re addicted� or whatever. I wasn�t ... might as well have been. So it wasn�t a comfortable re-entry into the states like I had hoped it�d be because it wasn�t cheers there to balance things at all ... and I just wanted to go home. {Laughs} And I came back with the hope that I�d, you know ...

MP: What year was that?

WS: �69. It was �69 when I came back. Actually, what happened was we had ... we flew back, a really great plane ... had some cool people ... a 747 plane, you know ... we got back and we, more or less, had to be ushered ... see, there were crowds around the airport then and they were all pulling soldiers who had come back, you know, so they began sneaking soldiers back in so ... no one knew exactly ... but we�d get off a plane and into the airport, down a tunnel and on to a waiting bus boarding south. They had shipped us all a bunch of ... somehow they gave us civilian clothes in which to go home in. Anyway, that was the homecoming.

MP: Those were some days.

WS: You remember those days?

MP: Oh yeah. So, you came back and drifted around a bit ...

WS: Yeah. Well then after that I found out the merits of the G.I. Bill. So I went to Junior College in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a couple of years and then I went on to Tahlequah and went to the university there for a couple of years. Then I dropped out and went to work for the Cherokee Nation. Or, somewhere in between I started to ... no, no, what happened was after the Junior College in Tulsa I got involved with the American Indian Movement and the takeover of the Pentagon and a number of things. And then after that, I went to Tahlequah University and at the University I started to work for the Cherokee Nation in the hope that I could make a difference in people�s lives.

MP: You were at Wounded Knee in �73?

WS: Yeah.

MP: And the Trail Of Broken Treaties in �72?

WS: Yes.

MP: You met Russell Means at that time?

WS: Yes, that�s when I first met him.

MP: What would you say was the greatest accomplishment or result of those struggles?

WS: I think the attitude of young people changed in the 1970�s ... people who were in a position of learning, they developed ... they were already developed in their life and now they were seeing the problems, you know ... and many twenty-four year olds were actually leading the charge for the struggles of what was going on in tribal governments. Going to court, for instance, or getting involved in land rights, you know? .... A lot of young people had just woke up to the injustices that had been more or less accepted as fact to that point. The movement was instrumental in waking up a lot of Native Americans to the fact that ... they began to control their own lives. I think it was very, very momentous and it opened up a lot of avenues of litigation which led on to the fact that tribes came to assist themselves ... like with Bingo, to begin with, on to what we have now which is casinos. A chance to generate their own money.

MP: Okay, correct this if it�s wrong but it seems that a lot of people who participated in much of that were young people who had been raised away from their cultural roots. Maybe that�s a misperception but if you agree with that assessment, why do you think that was? Was it a healing process or cultural re-connection?

WS: I think it was a combination of education and ... as I remember it, materials were coming from almost everywhere. The Ford Foundation and other liberal organizations were beginning to dig up information about a really dishonest government that we�d been living with for a long time. This was at the college ... you know, the �70s protest years, a lot of things were happening ... the Black Panther movement, all the social unrest going on and I think it added to the Native situation as well. But I think it was finding out how our people had been able to stay alive ... and survive over the years and just the things that they had to overcome ... I think it just really pissed a lot of people off. Then we all began to surface and it gave us all a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging to a group of people who wanted to accomplish something. A lot of the people who had been, as you say, away from the culture, were among the first to realize this and at least got the ball rolling. It would have come as a great support from traditional Indians, ... well, as the Trail Of Broken Treaties more or less showed, there were people from every walk of life involved who realized ... indeed, �there�s something about this ... let�s not sit back and wait for the government to come out and help because nothing changes� ... Yeah, I think that was one of the big waking up points. And I don�t know that a large population of American Indians realize what kind of impact it really did have.

MP: The Indian protest that took place during The Last Of The Mohicans ... what were your feelings on that?

WS: Well, I think it was entirely up to those guys involved to do that. It was a matter of ... it was a business negotiation when it comes down to it. Because extras everywhere are treated pretty much like that, you know? Plus, they�re not paid that well and they more or less have to fend for themselves. That�s just the nature of the business but they were able to stand up and say �we don�t want any more of this� and they took it up with management and they won some concessions.

MP: Going back for a minute; when you had gone to the university, were you at that time instructing people in the Cherokee language?

WS: Oh yeah.

MP: Was it primarily younger people who didn�t speak the language or was it a whole lot of different people?

WS: It was a bit of both. I had young people from about middle school to adults. And I had classes in the University as well. What I did was teach not only speech but also the syllabary, so some people who came to my class were already speakers ... they came for the syllabary. Others weren�t speakers so I used syllabary as a means of a visual aid to teach the sounds.

MP: Was this in Tahlequah?

WS: Yes.

MP: Regarding acting; in another interview you said that you do everything late in life and you enjoy the freedom and discipline acting offers. How did you get involved in this field and how old were you?

WS: What did I say?

MP: That you do everything late in life ...

WS: {Laughs} Well, not everything.

MP: And the freedom & discipline?

WS: You have to know your parameters.

MP: How did you first get into acting?

WS: Well, I got into community theatre sort of on a lark. I was looking for something else to do. I had been divorced back in the Tahlequah area and I went back to the Tulsa area and some friends had established a theatre company and asked if I wanted to go to some workshops. I had nothing to do so I did. I liked it then but didn�t take it serious until I had worked on a couple of projects ... It was two projects I had worked on and it wasn�t until then that I would actually admit to myself that I wanted to be an actor.

MP: Tell us about your play Coyote Chews His Own Tale.

WS: Oh yeah. Coyote Chews His Own Tale ... that's T-A-L-E ... that was after I had moved to L.A. I had been there for a couple of years and by that time I had done Pow Wow Highway and some television and a couple of movies. It was pretty hard to live in L.A. so my girlfriend and I decided �well, why don�t we try to create something here ourselves?� ... So we put together a one man stage show called Coyote Chews His Own Tale which is really a combination of a number of coyote stories ... and Wes Studi, of course, was Coyote and he had a long sabbatical back to earth where he saw the humans were taking advantage of his teachings, and wisdom and truth so he had to chew them out and set them straight again. It was aimed towards psychology and how we treat one another, you know ... the human relations and how they had strayed from the original lessons that Coyote left them. I still have the rock that was part of the show. It amazes me that I still have the rock here in my yard.

MP: If someone came up to you now and asked you to do the show again could you do it?

WS: No. {Laughs}

MP: Was this performed only in the L.A. area or did you travel around with the show?

WS: We performed in Los Angeles, Santa Fe ... we did bits and pieces here and there but not the whole show. Mainly in Los Angeles and Santa Fe.

MP: What kind of audiences were you performing for?

WS: Audiences? Ah, well. {Laughs} It was sort of R rated. The show was really for adults. But a lot of people mistakenly see a show that has something to do with Native Americans and they almost immediately decide it must be for children. Especially if it�s a story telling type of format they decide that it�s for children. Well, a number of times, we got a lot of adults, but a number of times people would bring their kids and we�d get to a certain point in the show where the stories got fairly graphic in terms of sexual innuendo and ... {Laughs} ... parents would gasp and cover their children�s eyes and ears and herd them towards the door. Other than that they were mainly adult audiences. The other thing we found with that show was ... well, it was a very funny show, you know ... it had some good laughs in the show but it really took a lot for the audience to realize that it was okay to laugh because they expected something VERY serious. You know, as soon as they walked in they expected that they were either going to be chewed out for their ancestors� actions or be lambasted for things like Big Mountain or something like that. And it turned out that wasn�t the case at all and after awhile we�d get a giggle out of one person then the whole thing would sort of erupt and everybody had a good time.

MP: {Laughs} Interesting.

WS: We had a lot of fun.

MP: Are you still involved with the American Indian Theatre Company?

WS: Well, yeah ... I never really cut ties with them. In fact, we may do a show together in November if things work out as they should. The Company wants to remount the show we did in 1984 called Black Elk Speaks and they want to have me do it. So, we�re talking about working together on that.

MP: That sounds really good! It�s based upon the book?

WS: Yeah ... sort of. Yeah, it more or less follows the book.

MP: Where is the American Indian Theatre Company based?

WS: In Tulsa.

MP: Okay. We wanted to mention to you that people are aware we�re doing this interview and are anxious to read what you have to say.

WS: Oh good! You know I have an official fan club now?

MP: Yes, we�ve heard about it. They are really supportive of you. You have a lot of very interested fans.

WS: That�s great!

MP: It is. Okay ... before we get into The Last Of The Mohicans, a couple of other questions. Your first film role was?

WS: My first film for theatrical release was Pow Wow Highway.

MP: Shortly after that you were in Dances With Wolves. How did you find yourself in that film?

WS: Well, the old fashioned way. I auditioned. We were all reading for the part of Wind In His Hair. But they were interested in me for the Pawnee. So, I went back once, twice ... they offered me the part and asked if I would shave my head. I said, �In a New York minute!�

    PART TWO ...

    MP: Did the role as the Pawnee warrior help you in any way with the character of Magua ... and did that part help land the role of Magua?

    WS: Well, yeah. It helped me in my role as Magua. I think Magua was a more developed Pawnee. Yeah ... I think it was really a matter of demanding that same character with the ability to speak a lot of different languages as well ... and have a similar story. Cause that�s more or less the way I played the guy in Dances With Wolves ... he probably had gone through the same kinds of tragedies as Magua had, but Magua had the ability to voice some of those things. But according to Michael, no, it didn�t have anything to do with it.

    MP: So, Michael Mann didn�t seek you out for that particular role?

    WS: No, no ... the reason I say that is because I ... there was a woman .... Elizabeth Leustig, I think was her name ... and I was eager to take an 8x10 from Dances With Wolves to be the one to show them. So upon my first audition there I took it along with myself and delivered it to her. �Well, I don�t know about this. Let me check with Michael first. � So she comes back and says; �Do you have another picture? Just a regular picture?� I had another 8x10 with me as well but they didn�t really want an association there, I think. But, it may or may not have had anything to do with the actual casting.

    MP: Okay. You auditioned for the role. What was the woman�s name you mentioned?

    WS: Elizabeth Leustig. She was killed in an accident a few years ago in Germany I think. No, actually, it was Russia.

    {Note: Originally from France, she was the wife of Jack Leustig, producer of 500 Nations and a good pal of Kevin Costner.}

    MP: Going back to Dances With Wolves ... that film polarizes people. They either love it or hate it. What was your impression of it on the whole?

    WS: As a whole? {Laughs} As a film itself ... after getting over the success of it, it did so well ... jump started the career of course. {Laughs} I look at it as a film and ... ahhhhh, it�s kind of a schlocky western. You know, it�s something I think ... you really can�t say it was a good film ... cause it really isn�t good film or bad film because it affected a lot of people in a lot of ways ... not only people directly involved with it, but artists and authors. You know, there was a great interest in Native American stories there for awhile. I think that it generated that kind of interest and it generated that kind of economy as well for Natives. So, in terms of great film, I think it�s like Lawrence Of Arabia. That was a great film too but when you look at it in terms of what kind of story it imbued, it was kind of a schlock story about this one guy�s great transformation, an Englishman ... and so, it was viewed as great. I think just the fact that it generated the kind of interest that it did and the fact that it was filmed outside ... you know, the artistic points of the film itself, was great ... the soundtrack.

    MP: It opened doors for you.

    WS: Yep.

    MP: Following that film, you were in The Doors with Val Kilmer?

    WS: Oh, please!

    MP: {Laughs} Sorry!

    WS: Oh, God. {Laughs} I saw that in a little article in a magazine the other day and they noted that I had been in The Doors ... which, I was in there maybe uno, dos, tres ... three seconds. MAYBE that much. No, no ... I was paid as an actor but I was really an extra in that film.

    MP: You�re just basically there by the highway in the very beginning ...

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: Okay, we�ll forget about that movie.

    WS: Yeah. {Laughs}

    MP: Russell Means has discussed your character, Magua, and pointed out that he had all these understandable human motivations. There was depth, there was character. What did you feel about Magua? What was your connection to him?

    WS: Well, my connection is in the blood really. You know, it�s pretty easy for I or any other Indian who knows the history of the US and Indian relations ... there were a lot of things that happened during that time that we definitely had a right to be pissed off about. And continues to be so ... and so, I just draw from the fact that there were all these atrocities that happened with negative people like that. I draw from that kind of a rage ... that we weren�t able to develop as a people ... it�s like arrested development of the tribes here. We had to turn around and deal with , well ... like you people. So, that became more or less our thing to do. It was all we could do for quite awhile and I guess, I don�t know, I think we have to re-continue our development as a people. And so, yeah ... I draw from mainly that. So I can see where Magua�s coming from.

    MP: You are very soft-spoken and polite. The character of Magua is so radically different from how you seem to be; the transformation ... is it acting technique or is it an inner rage that you draw upon from historical events?

    WS: Yeah, well, when it comes down to it it�s an acting technique that involves getting in touch with your real feelings, which you can�t do 24 hours a day because it would drive you nuts. You know, to be in that state of mind all the time you really would be walking around like a Magua ... and in this century you�d either be dead or in jail. So, it�s a part of anybody�s ability to be able to express that kind of rage ... about anything that�s part of their social or personal history.

    MP: Have you ever read Cooper�s book?

    WS: No. {Laughs} I tried to. I tried it at the beginning and I think ... ahhhhh ... Unless it was put into a different kind of writing technique, you know?

    MP: So you weren�t familiar with the book and your characterization of Magua was strictly from the script. Had you seen any other versions of LOTM?

    WS: No, you know actually, I never had until after we shot it. Then I saw one of the ones that had been done in �46 or something.

    MP: It was probably �36. Phillip Dunne�s ...

    WS: Yeah, that must be the one. So, yeah, I sort of watched it a bit ... I played the part much better though. {Laughs}

    MP: Definitely!

    WS: No, I wasn�t all that ... it really wasn�t as good.

    MP: Well, in Michael Mann�s script Magua�s character has such depth. That alone was something special about the film. You really hadn�t seen that kind of depth in a character like Magua before.

    WS: I think that�s what was in a review ... it was either Siskel or Ebert ... Siskel I think ... he said if it wasn�t for Magua it would�ve been just another love story. I love that quote. {Laughs} But you know, I think it had a lot to do with the kind of person Michael is, as a director ... and the kind of story he tells. He really has an affinity for the bad guy, or the guy he really thinks is the bad guy. That�s one of the reasons Magua became, I think, a little bit more than what was even in the script. And that went on to ... Magua, more or less developed as we were shooting this thing. Like I said, he has an affinity for the bad guy and he wants to show the human part of both sides. Not only screaming but truthful and very human like.

    MP: There were several scenes throughout the film where you expressed various emotions without really saying anything. While you and Montcalm were talking by the lake, much of the exchange was unspoken ... without dialogue it was clear that Montcalm basically gave the nod for Magua to attack the column.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: Your expressions were so vivid. Was that a result of Michael Mann�s directorial skills?

    WS: The intrigue of it ... that�s one of the great things about the film. The intrigue of, well, like that one scene ... men involved in a radical act such as war have to have a very good understanding of what�s coming. I think that�s probably the kind of thing that goes on in government circles in terms of whatever ... you know, no need to be put on paper ... it�s something that ... nobody wants to take responsibility for it then we don�t put it on paper. It�s a fact of life. I don�t know if I kind of lost you there but ...

    MP: No, no. We follow you exactly.

    WS: Oh okay. Sometimes I get a little departed. {Laughs}

    MP: You and Patrice Chereau ... Montcalm ...

    WS: Oh, yeah yeah! The Frenchman. Uhm humm.

    MP: The interaction between you was conveyed so well.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: It was more through facial expression than words. It was really perfect. Did you two just click?

    WS: I think it worked well because Patrice spoke very little English. He was phonetically doing ... most of his lines were done phonetically and I said this to Mann, having done so many other things phonetically as well. So, he and I had a good understanding of what the scene was all about and the lack of communication, or ability, between the two of us really made it more ... real. I think that had a lot to do with it as well. We just knew what had to happen and didn�t actually have to say it. {Laughs} We did say it, but whose to say we�d understand one another, you know?

    MP: Regarding roles in historical pieces; you said your first responsibility in your acting was to the Cherokee, then to other Indian people, to be as factual and actual as you can be ...

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: How difficult is that for you, and is that responsibility magnified when you are portraying an historical figure?

    WS: Well, it�s difficult in terms of meeting people�s expectations. In a way I feel like I have to do that ... sort of. As far as I can, as much as I can. When we were filming Geronimo, you know, we had some of the man�s relatives there ... and no matter what kind of life we live here on earth, somebody�s gonna like us, somebody�s gonna dislike us ... whatever we do. So, it�s trying to cover both things, I think. Playing an historical figure is very difficult because you�re trying to ... especially with a man like Geronimo, you know he ... as part of my own personal history goes the man is like an icon, right? Well ... back from the �70s. And he�s somebody that had a spirit that we all looked up to and we more or less transferred that feeling about that spirit to the actual man himself, which is sort of a mistake, you know? But, you begin to find out that he did some things that we in this world here would totally disapprove of ... and probably people back then would really not want to know that he was not such a good man. But, playing a guy like that is very difficult because you have people who know, or at least say they know, of things that he did that were absolutely horrible. A lot of things were, you know ... But then, he also did some great things for his people ... up to a certain point. So, playing an historical figure is ... ha ... you sort of ... you can�t have it both ways. You can�t have the good parts and the bad parts, you know? In terms of telling a story, a guy has to fit into one or the other or be ... uninteresting, would be the word ... or someone that you take credibility away from at a later date. So, it�s difficult. It really is difficult because men are much more complicated than history would have them.

    MP: A lot more complicated than you can really put forth in a two hour film.

    WS: Oh, God, yes.

    MP: Considering that many people tend to be armchair moralists and judge historic persons from today�s standards, it must be a burden at times to portray truthfully your character ...

    WS: Yeah, it can be a burden. It certainly can be a burden. Especially when you�re trying to hit the box office big, you know? Ha. And like I said before, a story tends to need a hero and a villain. Someone in between courts disaster in terms of becoming uninteresting or wishy-washy ... or someone that can�t make up his mind. The only way that I could attack it in that particular role was that the man was in a situation that became desperate. He also had grown up in a time that was ... you know, when he was born the Apache were totally at war. They were at war for however long the Spanish and the other people around them had been around ... they more or less stayed at war so it was a lifeway with him, you know? People who are born into that kind of situation see it as a way of life. So, I think he was ferocious ... all because that�s the way he came in, it was like that. The fact that he was trying to protect a way of life that he had been told was better than what was going on then was what drove him ... until the enemies that surrounded them were done away with. They really didn�t have time to live the way that they were supposed to live. Those were the things he grew up in ... so, he just fit the bill for his times.

    MP: That�s a lot to try to convey to an audience!

    WS: Yeah. Especially when you have other characters that the film is trying to tell a story about.

    MP: True. Getting back to The Last Of The Mohicans for a bit ...

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: We read an excerpt from the American Indian Review where you were talking about a real racial tension developing in the Massacre Valley scene.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: That�s really interesting. Captain Dale Dye, the one who trained the British troops for the film, said basically much the same thing.

    WS: Yeah, he said that too.

    MP: Russell Means as well. Everyone seems to feel that way. Do you think these �racial hatreds� were purposely manipulated in any way for the realistic effect or were they �naturally� brought about?

    WS: Well .... {Laughs} I think that I would call it a brilliant piece of manipulation if it was. I don�t think that, like I said ... I think that if it were done that way, if things were manipulated, it certainly was meant to be that way because it turned out that one of the strongest scenes was that. {Pause} Given the make-up of the people involved, especially if they sort of expected it ... it may have been 50% of one, 50% of the other. You kind of lost me on this one. {Laughs}

    MP: It�s a tough question. The conditions; the competition, the emotions, the historical aspects ... could it have spawned what might have been there already somewhere?

    WS: Oh, yeah.

    MP: Was there an incident in this scene where Colonel Munro, Maurice Roeves, was hurt by you?

    WS: {Laughs} Yes. No, actually what had happened was the horse scene in the valley itself ... something happened there with his shoulder. It was kind of out of place ... he wasn�t in any severe pain or anything but there was something sore on his shoulder already there ... maybe a pulled muscle or something ... but there was another scene, I think actually it was the heart pulling part where we had to do a re-shoot of some dialogue there, that compounded it ... By the time we shot the actual heart pulling scene we were inundated with a great storm going on at the time and we were shooting this one scene under one of these 20 x 40 flags. We were shooting under one of those things and the flag itself was fast filling up and coming down closer and closer to our heads. So much water built up in there on top, you know, and so we had to do some dialogue, I think where he was on a horse and I had to put my foot on his shoulder I think ... something like that, as I reached down for his heart and that�s where I think I put too much weight on his shoulder and it may have popped something ... well, I don�t think it actually popped anything but it aggravated what was already there. I think that�s what happened.

    MP: As long as we�re talking about that scene, what was that in your hand?

    WS: {Laughs} I tell people it was a hog heart ... {Laughs} Then I tell them also it was a prosthetic. It actually was a prosthetic, kind of a rubbery thing. But Maurice and I have been friends ever since. In fact, I may be planning a trip to Scotland for the millennium.

    MP: Great! He spoke so highly of you.

    WS: Oh, yeah ... I�d love to work with him again as well as hang out with him. When I can understand him! {Laughs} He�s GOT an accent.

    MP: He�s a very funny guy.

    WS: Yeah!!! I like him. He�s in California, isn�t he?

    MP: We don�t know ... spoke to him at the end of October and he was heading back to England at that time.

    WS: Ah yeah, he goes back and forth, back and forth.

    MP: He had a British television series going.

    WS: Does he? I know he did a play here in L.A. The Killing Of Michael Malloy.

    MP: Yes. Of all the physical things required of you in that film [LOTM], what was the most demanding sequence?

    WS: I think it was the knifing of Uncas. Not so much physically, but in terms of making it appear sort of a sneak attack on the guy. What we had to recreate, at least in my mind, was a knifing ... something you�d do if you were trying to hide it from someone else. You have a hold on someone and just rip out his intestinal tract or something with a knife ... and you do it very quickly, without much notice. I think that was sort of a dramatic moment ... raise the knife and then bring it down. Yeah, that was Michael�s idea to ... quick, slash the innards and push the victim away. Because the attitude toward him was that he was just an obstacle in the way and the fact that it�s human had no bearing on the whole thing. Kill it and push it out of the way. I twisted my knee there and I tore some cartilage.

    MP: During that sequence?

    WS: Yeah. I had to have orthoscopic surgery. In fact, you can actually see this cast on my leg where the very top of it barely shows, just for a second ... a swipe. It was just a quick swipe across the screen. I didn�t need a full cast but I tore some cartilage. Yeah, I ripped through the mat and had to go in an ambulance and came back about a week later.

    MP: The whole cliff sequence was delayed from that?

    WS: Yeah. We already had some of it but had more to do.

    MP: That whole sequence was perhaps the very best in the movie. There�s been a lot of discussion and analysis on our board about that scene in particular. Every expression, every gesture that you made, Jodhi May as well, but especially you, was perfect. Very evocative sequence of expressions, emotions ... you seem to range from cold blooded and detached to surprised and even curious almost, pity almost ... then ending as though you�re just dismissing her.

    WS: Exactly! You worded that so accurately ... that was great!

    MP: That�s because you conveyed those emotions so perfectly. It was amazing. Tell us what Magua was thinking ... what were his emotions?

    WS: Okay, what happened is I kill a guy ... look over and there�s this baby ... I think of my daughter ... I have a daughter about the same age ... I think of my daughter and I look up and at first it�s �here�s another enemy.� Then I see that it�s only a child, and a female child at that. So I think, �well, maybe I should take it and raise it� ... in terms of what Magua was thinking. Then it looks at me in fright and jumps and it comes back to me that � oh, this is one of those people. One of those people and I don�t understand how they think anyway. It�s just as well.� And he walks off.

    MP: That was a great scene. Why do you think Alice jumps off that cliff?

    WS: I think she was terrified.

    MP: The reason we ask is that there has been a lot of discussion regarding Alice�s motives. Some say it was fear, some that it was defiance. Strong act, weak act.

    WS: I don�t think she had the time to look down and see that her lover had ... he was supposed to be her lover. In cutting I don�t know if that came through but she was supposed to have been in love with Uncas ... whether it was a jump to join her dead lover, as in a Romeo & Juliet kind of thing, or out and out fright in vain, I think it would have been the latter. It WOULD have been the latter. That�s my understanding of it.

    MP: Okay. Language; in the film you spoke how many languages?

    WS: Let�s see ... Huron, Mohawk, French, and English. That�d be four.

    MP: Are you French speaking?

    WS: No.

    MP: So, you had to learn dialogue in 2, 3 languages for this film?

    WS: Yeah. French, Huron, and Mohawk ... is that right?

    MP: French, Huron, Mohawk, and English you spoke. What about Cherokee? Did you speak Cherokee at times?

    WS: Some of the Huron I spoke in Cherokee. They couldn�t really find anyone up in the Huron region to translate some of it.

    MP: And Cherokee is Iroquoian so it works.

    WS: Yeah. It works.

    MP: You�re linguistically talented as well, to be able to pick up and speak in several languages.

    WS: We had people there to sort of help with the language ... and knowing what you�re saying makes a lot of difference. If not by word, at least by meaning.

    MP: Mike Phillips said the same thing. Understanding what you�re trying to convey is so important. He talked about how proud he was to speak Mohawk in the film and how proud he was on behalf of Mohawk people to be able to do that. Did you feel a similar pride at all?

    WS: Well, I didn�t get that much of a chance. {Laughs} And then it was incognito as well. No, I think Mike is a great fellow.

    MP: The use of several languages was another strong aspect of the film in terms of realism. Do you think it had any impact upon the film industry in regards to Native efforts to produce and so forth? Anything positive come from this?

    WS: In terms of film making, yeah, I think so. Those who were already involved in making film probably had the opportunity for a number of actors that were available to be ... that there was a pool of talent there as well ... for whatever reasons, to either rectify the stories or reinforce the stories that were being told by Hollywood. I think it was a real impetus for the number of products that were being produced. I think in the last two years there has been more and more Indian people who are actually making films. I like to think that Mohicans and Wolves had something to do with it.

    PART THREE ...

    MP: Sure. In LOTM, the Huron Village was a powerful piece of filming, followed by the climactic Cliff Scenes. Those were some of the best moments on film ... any film ... and you were such an integral part of that. Now, we know you didn�t receive an award but can you say that YOU think you deserved an Academy Award for your work as Magua?

    WS: Yeah, I got knocked out by, what was that film ... something about minds? If that one fella wasn�t nominated I think I would have been nominated. The Academy was quoted as saying it was one of those brilliant performances and one of these actors .. he was a cross dresser ... it was kind of a sleeper hit to begin with and an independent film ... but then what really started building up was this one guy ... this one actor ... he played a woman throughout the entire film and then turns out he was a man .... a young black guy. Do you know who I�m talking about?

    MP: No. I don't recall ...

    WS: Yeah, I think I should have been nominated. And just the way things work, I think I would have been if he had not. ... Oh, I got it! It was The Crying Game ... that guy. {Jaye Davidson}

    MP: It wasn�t just you though. The entire movie seemed to have been overlooked, or snubbed, by the awards panel. It was one of the best films ever produced.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: It�s hard to understand why that was.

    WS: You know, the scheme as a whole ... the make up of who directed it, who was in it ... you know, Daniel Day had already won for My Left Foot but it was going against the tide for him and Michael was known up to that point as a television director. I think that might have had some bearing on the whole thing. It�s a funny game, the awards system. It�s a game worth playing though.

    MP: You mentioned Michael Mann being a �television director� and that it may have played a part in this. That�s something we�ve thought was a likely factor. Another take on it was offered by Russell Means. His opinion on it was that there may have been a �pay back� for the problems with the production as far as union issues and different aspects like that. So, ultimately it�s a game and you�re either in it or you�re out in any given year?

    WS: Yeah, and I think a large part of the game, that part of it anyway, was played out in L.A.

    MP: Well, as far as the public is concerned, you won the award anyway!

    WS: Great! I�m going to put that on my resume. {Laughs}

    MP: Another thing about LOTM is the violence. Any historical film, or any period piece like that it would seem, since it was violent times you have to deal with the violence. However, so many people are critical of violence depicted in film. As far as period films go, do you have an opinion on the need to be accurate in a violent manner versus sanitizing movies?

    WS: Well, I think when you get to the point of being graphic you might begin to think in terms of how love scenes were once done, it�s sort of coming back now, the cut away to the billowing curtains, or the sunset, or something like that. Move quickly on to the next scene. I think there�s a certain responsibility to show the ugliness ... You know, actually the thought that violence can invoke violence; that�s something that I think is a very fine line for any film maker to have to play with - well, not to play with but to DEAL with. I don�t know how much that it affects a person to see violence. Hopefully to see the ugliness that results of the violence would be a detriment to actually committing an act that produces such ugliness. I don�t know that it�s heavy enough to keep people from doing it as opposed to romanticizing it ... romanticizing the act ... make someone want to do something like that. I�m just at a loss at that point. I think that less is better.

    MP: Saving Private Ryan does what you were saying. It is very graphic, but it demonstrates the horror.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: When The Last of the Mohicans was filmed, was there a shot done of you actually taking a bite out of Colonel Munro�s heart?

    WS: {Laughs} Oh geez ... I said that once! I really did. That was my plan to do so. I thought, �It doesn�t taste that bad!� I actually wanted to do that. I spoke with Michael about it. �You know, I really think I should take a bite of it.� Because, we hear that, in those times, to the victor goes the heart. Michael said, �No, I don�t think that would be quite ... it might take Magua over the edge. We want to drum up enough... it�s hard enough to support the guy, so let�s not do it.� In fact, the other thing was, Jeffrey Dahmer was around at that time. I spoke with the first A.D. after that and he first mentioned that. I said, �Oh, that�s right!� So, no, there�s not a shot of me biting the heart, but I have told people that, in jest.

    MP: Well, it got around! So, what is your overall opinion of the movie?

    WS: Well, I think it�s a great ... it�s a very, very, very good movie. It takes into account all the sides that there were. It tells a good story, and I don�t object to the love story part of it at all. It�s really, I think, a very good film.

    MP: So I take it you�re happier with it than you were with Dances With Wolves?

    WS: Well, they�re both kind of schlocky love stories, but I think Mohicans is a more ... well, it�s about real life, you know? It, more or less, mirrors real life.

    MP: Michael Mann seems to get the most out of his actors. This film was really big on facial expressions with impact. How does he do that?

    WS: In my experience, Michael is much more passionately involved ... not to say that other directors aren�t as well ... He has a way of showing it more, and how he gets the actors to, well, I think it�s more than the actors ... He just shoots it till he gets what he wants. He wants as many variations on the same theme as possible. He goes after it, and he doesn�t let anything get in the way the performance. Actually, what you really have to do is touch the actor himself. He has a way of doing that.

    MP: Shortly after Mohicans you did Heat with him.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: Do you have a friendship with him?

    WS: Yeah, I�d call it a friendship.

    MP: Do you think you�d ever work with him again?

    WS: Oh, I�d love to. The Heat thing ... it was fun. It wasn�t that challenging, but it was fun.

    MP: Who was your favorite character that you�ve played?

    WS: Oh, boy! Well ... I really lean towards Magua. I liked Geronimo, as well. And ... {Laughs} ... I don�t know, I really don�t know. I think the one that�s coming up next. {Laughs}

    MP: In this case, that�s Mystery Men?

    WS: Oh, Mystery Men! Yeah ... {Laughs} That�s good. He�s gonna be sort of like a scaled back Magua. {Laughs}

    MP: Your character is the Sphinx, correct?

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: Going back for a bit, in Mohicans there were Indians gathered from all over the Continent. It would seem it was quite a thrill for many. Did you see it that way?

    WS: I thought it was great! It was sort of like ... Wolves was kind of the same way ... Maybe not from as many different places. It was kind of a big-ended production.

    MP: As for Magua ... you played him to perfection. It seems that kind of a role can cause someone to be typecast. Why haven�t you?

    WS: Because I�m versatile! {Laughs} I do what I feel like doing.

    MP: Are there any Indian leaders who you�d really like to portray in film?

    WS: I�d like to play Ely Parker. He�s a good story. He was one of the first educated Senecas. Quite a traveled guy. Here's a guy not stuck on the reservation. He did a lot of things in the outside world.

    MP: Is this a role you�d like to do something with using your own production company?

    WS: Well, it's nothing we�ve talked about. Yeah. It�s a matter of finding the right story that would generate the right ... ideas.

    MP: What about non-Indian historical persons? Anybody you�d really like to take a stab at playing?

    WS: Yeah. I would play Andrew Jackson, and I would play him as the most hateful person in the world, I would. {Laughs}

    MP: What about a Trail of Tears production? PBS did a documentary, that you narrated, filmed in North Carolina ...

    WS: Yeah! Did it go to PBS?

    MP: Uh-huh.

    WS: Good!

    MP: Regarding the Trail of Tears ... many have heard of it, probably not many really understand what it refers to. Would one of your objectives be to tell that story on film?

    WS: You know, I would make it ... were we able to do it with my company, I would like to play up the split in the Cherokee Nation itself and how that came about. We�ve got heroes and villains, the whole thing. People who signed over treaty rights or land rights that shouldn�t have been able to do that. And a United States Government that was all too eager to accept any type of any tract from any Cherokee ... any agreement like that. It has a lot of intrigue and back biting going on. It�s really quite the story.

    MP: It�s the human condition again. It�s really very complicated.

    WS: {Laughs} Complicated ... yeah. Well, you figure just about everybody probably does things with a good thought in mind. They do things with what they believe will benefit people in the future. Or, themselves. Most people do things, I think, out of ... things that turn out bad, that is ... out of lack of fact, knowledge ... there are mistakes made by people who are well-intentioned and turned out to be villains. Which, may be true of Andrew Jackson, though I think he�s the Devil.

    MP: That would be a fantastic thing to see! That would be poetic justice! To see Wes Studi as Andrew Jackson?!

    WS: {Laughs}

    MP: Seems a good story to be told there by the right person. So, what is the value of period pieces? Seems there are some who would prefer to do only contemporary pieces ...

    WS: Well, I guess they�re contemporary guys. They probably can�t ride horses or shoot guns. {Laughs}

    MP: But there�s a value, don�t you think, in both contemporary & period pieces?

    WS: I love to do both films ... myself, I love to do historical pieces as well as contemporary. I feel like I owe a debt to - and have a great gratitude towards - historical pieces. And I actually like to do them, and I think I see them as an opportunity to sort of rectify what has been told in history. Schools don't really get into it. Sort of set the record straight. Maybe I was born too late.

    MP: It�s also a way of giving tribute to those who came before. To do a movie about another time and to bring those people to life in a way that tells their story accurately and powerfully ... it�s about the greatest tribute we can give them in this day and age.

    WS: Absolutely. We wouldn�t be here if it weren�t for them.

    MP: It�s all connected.

    WS: Ain�t that the truth.

    MP: Your own production company, War Dancer ... have there been any productions other than Bonnie Looksaway�s Iron Art Wagon?

    WS: No, that�s all we�ve done. In fact, we dissolved War Dancer and I�m working on another company. You know how you sort of lose steam sometimes? We really don�t know which direction we�re going in ... we continue to think about it.

    MP: You are an actor, a writer, a producer, an artist, a director, a musician ... that�s a lot of things ... you�re a very talented person. How much of this is natural gifts and how much is the result of a lot of determination and a lot of hard work?

    WS: I�d say 50/50. I really don�t know how to answer your question. {Laughs} I�ll sit around and think about it though. It always comes down to thinking about things. You can�t sit around and do nothing. So, you do it and hopefully it turns out well and is perceived well ... but, you never know. You don�t know until you do it.

    MP: The two books you�ve written are both children�s book?

    WS: Oh yeah.

    MP: Are they original stories of yours or are they adaptations?

    WS: One is a collection of short stories and the second is like a novella ... a moral short story about a little character called Billy Bean who is Cherokee. They�re about experiences and learning about life. The first set of short stories was actually commissioned by a publisher who wanted stories to take into schools in northeastern Oklahoma. They had to be stories about learning lessons one way or another ... moral stories. So, that�s what the first book is, a collection of those kind of stories ... very interesting situations, I think, for the little boy. The longer version ... the second book ... has a little more to do with Cherokee stories that leads into an action adventure for Billy Bean.

    MP: Do you enjoy writing?

    WS: I did then. I did then but it doesn�t strike me to do that now.

    MP: We know your band Firecat Of Discord has a new CD out.

    WS: Oh yes.

    MP: Tell us a little bit about the band.

    WS: The band is planning on a CD release party on the 28th of May at the Paramount here in Santa Fe. We�re struggling to have some rehearsals here with all the different schedules. Hopefully we�ll be ready for the gig by the 28th. We�re working on a lot of new stuff as well. Some of it is sort of rehashing old stuff from the CD. We�ll be doing some of the old numbers. I think that�s the feeling here. It�s fun but we�ve done it so many times now that we�d really like to be playing something different which is really our ultimate goal ... to get some numbers up and ready for the next CD. It�s the creation of these that motivates most of us in the band. There are 3 or 4 of us who write so that�s the direction we�re going in. Our next CD is going to have a lot more to do with our band�s name Firecat Of Discord which is a character out of an old Oneida story. The Firecat of Discord is a character that shows up at times when things are so bad that he comes along and the people are in turmoil and everything is chaotic. The Firecat shows up and everyone can see ... he gets people to go on home and come to their senses and say, �Hey, we�re moving in the wrong direction here. We�ve got to stop and get things moving back in a better way.� So, that�s what our next CD is going to be about.

    MP: Bruce King is Oneida, right?

    WS: Yes, he�s the one who came up with the name. He�s a playwright himself.

    MP: And your wife, Maura, is also in the band?

    WS: She�s our vocalist.

    MP: Do you have a label?

    WS: We�re independent.

    MP: How can people buy this CD?

    WS: We have a web site.

    MP: We can link to the site so people can find out how to order the CD.

    WS: Oh, that�d be great! One of the band members does that. I�m, unfortunately, computer illiterate.

    MP: Your wife is a board member of F.A.I.T.A. {First Americans In The Arts} Could you explain a bit what this organization is?

    WS: F.A.I.T.A. just had its seventh award ceremony. It all started out with the chairman of the board. His name is Bob Hicks. He�s a fella I met way back in my theatre days in Tulsa, Oklahoma ... we�re both from that area. He had been in L.A. for awhile ... he�s a filmmaker himself ... he and I and a number of other people got together in the late �80s sometime and started having these little dinners that we called an Oklahoma Dinner. All of the guys were from Oklahoma so we�d all get together in this little place which is now the Brown Derby. You�re from New York ... well, it�s a popular place, a little restaurant there in the area ... so that�s what we started doing, having these little dinners once a year which we called the Oklahoma Party. Then after awhile Bob gets it into his mind that he�d like to put on a show and in order to do so he had to put this board together. At the time, my wife was my girlfriend so Bob and she and a number of others formed an organization where we�d have dinner together and give out awards. It was a hit.


    WS: And then in one of the first years, we had a ceremony at a little Italian restaurant out in Oceanside (?) and it ....... like, it was sold out! ... Standing room only. It really caught on well. So, what they set up was these scholarships for people in film ... award presentations ... and we started having these award shows at nice restaurants and it�s been getting bigger and bigger every year. I think it�s been real good for us.

    MP: It seems to have gotten very big ... so many participants & award presenters ...

    WS: Yeah. And it�s growing.

    MP: That�s great. You also sculpt?

    WS: Yes.

    MP: Is it just a personal thing you�re into ... for your own pleasure?

    WS: Yeah ... I don�t do it in a disciplined form ... just for relaxing.

    MP: Stone sculpting?

    WS: Yes.

    MP: You are being honored by the Cherokee National Historical Society this month. {Note: May �99}

    WS: Yes.

    MP: You have quite a passion for history, is that right?

    WS: I like it. Yeah, I do.

    MP: The Cherokee elections are also going to be this month. {Note: May �99}

    WS: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah ...

    MP: You�ve endorsed Chad Smith - the grandson of Chief Red Bird Smith. Why has he received such vocal support from you?

    WS: Well, Chad shares the same kind of ideas that I have about how the Tribal government should be ... the direction that it should take. More sovereignty, more self-sufficiency ... I think he is an honest man who shares the things I care about. I�ve known him a number of years and he�s economically ... creating more opportunities within the Cherokee Nation ... and that�s the way to go.

    MP: Backtracking a bit ... why are you being honored by the Cherokee Historical Society?

    WS: You�ve got me there! {Laughs}

    MP: Candid answer! Well, is it in terms of being a role model possibly?

    WS: Well, I guess a sort of role model. A role model in terms of ... the way I�d like to put it, and I think there�s a certain amount of certainty, is if a man with my background can succeed at something becoming in life then I think anyone can do it given the time and effort.

    MP: You seem to be very involved in many �causes� ... making appearances at benefits and events pertaining to Indian youth and the arts.

    WS: Yes.

    MP: A fair description would be a Cherokee community activist. So, what motivates you? What are the things most close to your heart that push you to do that? As you said the other day, you get around.

    WS: I like things that take care of problems that we have right now. Activities and/or program projects that are designed to take care of the problems that we have as well as, in some way, affect young people ... to keep them from doing the same things over and over again. The continuation of the same old problems over and over again. It�s something that we�d like to be able to look for the long term ... something to stop repeating the same mistakes.

    MP: You were recently in Florida for the Barcole Foundation�s fundraiser.

    WS: Yes.

    MP: What was it like to see Eric Schweig again?

    WS: {Laughs} Eric!!! Oh ... it was great to see Eric again! You keep in touch, right?

    MP: Oh sure, we�re in touch with him regularly.

    WS: It�s been so great. He started carving ... I saw one of his carvings and it�s definitely vintage Eric Schweig. You know, it had its roots basically in the traditional carvings of the northwest, you know? But it was definitely ERIC ... {Laughs} He�s just that kind of guy & it�s great to see him doing this.

    MP: Does he seem very different now than from the time of the filming of LOTM?

    WS: Not really. Not really. Well ... you know that he�s sober.

    MP: Yes.

    WS: Well, he wasn�t back then and it just degraded to ... he has so much to offer & it really would have been a waste for him not to wake up. He�s a great guy! ... Huge!

    MP: We�ve come to really like him.

    WS: He doesn�t mince words, does he? {Laughs.}

    MP: No, he does not. It�s good to see someone like him who has so much to offer moving forward.

    WS: Yeah.

    MP: We know you have to go so we�ll pose this question and try not to oblige you to provide a long answer. You�ve described yourself as a Cherokee first, an American second ... and you�ve stated that you�ll forgive but not forget. Your pride is so obvious ... your heritage, your culture, who you are ... you seem very committed to the Cherokee community. You do this in such a positive way while so many others seem to be bitter or angry. How do you approach this without anger and how do teach children, your children, to balance the forgiving and not forgetting? It�s a challenge.

    WS: I don�t know ... pretty much it�s a matter of course. Like I said before, it�s such a wasteful, time consuming thing to be angry all the time that you only do yourself a disservice and wind up with an ulcer. That�s something I can�t do. I can�t wind up with an ulcer and die early. I have a five year old son. It�s not in the books for me ... to stay bitter about something. I mean, it�s always there. It�s always there. But it�s something that can be overcome by the goodness in people. There�s all this goodness in people. Like I said before, a lot of things ... ignorance or bad things ... are done with good intentions. You never know ... it�s a matter of balancing the two things out & knowing that human nature is what it is. I don�t know. I�m just grateful that I don�t have to be mad ALL the time.

    MP: Okay, you have Mystery Men coming out ...

    WS: August 6th.

    MP: And then there�s a few other films we�ve heard about. Wind River

    WS: Yes.

    MP: Sound Man

    WS: Yes.

    MP: GI Joe

    WS: No. No GI Joe. Uh uh.

    MP: Okay, no GI Joe ... but Wind River ... is that a period piece?

    WS: Yes.

    MP: About the Shoshone?

    WS: Yes, the Shoshone.

    MP: Oh great!

    WS: It�s about two chiefs ... Russell Means and I bump heads again.

    MP: Do you know when that�s going to be out?

    WS: We don�t know. We don�t know exactly how it�s going to be released.

    MP: Have you shot it already?

    WS: Oh yeah, yeah. I think it�s going through the family values venue. It was screened about 2 or 3 months ago in L.A. for the awards they were doing there at the Directors� Guild. But, as far as a distributor, I don�t know.

    MP: Who produced it?

    WS: It�s an independent film as well so it�s out there.

    MP: Okay ... well, we have to let you go but we don�t want to! You�re a pleasure to speak with.

    WS: It�s been fun.

    MP: It�s been fun for us too. One last point ... while filming LOTM, you were in Cherokee homelands. How was that for you?

    WS: It�s always nice to go back home!

    MP: Thank you very, very much for everything.


    Wes practically begged us to stop. It was a LONG interview. Thank you, Wes!
    There really isn�t much we need to add in the way of commentary other than to say; We had an excellent opinion of Wes Studi prior to interviewing him, speaking with him only cemented our high regard. We wish Wes Studi great success in all he does!


    Our thanks to Pat Anderson for her efforts in contacting Wes for this interview! And, to Old Eyes!

    View Wes As MAGUA, The Screen Captures!

    View the results of our

    Firecat Of Discord - Link
    Link to the Firecat of Discord web site ... Wes' band!

    For a sample song from Wes' CD, go to: LOTM DOWNLOADABLE SOUND FILES. Used by permission of Firecat of Discord.

    Official Wes Studi Fan Club Link
    Be sure to visit the Official Wes Studi Web Site!
    Many thanks to Christina Berry, and all the Fan Club, for all their help & cooperation!
    In addition, visit for more from Wes!

    To view, and purchase, prints of "Magua" by the artist, H. David Wright, use this link:

    For excellent Web design at reasonable rates!



    Other Interviews, Photo Galleries, and First Person Accounts With Cast & Crew:


    For a listing of articles contained in back issues, available for purchase, from AHG, go to AHG/AIE NEWSLETTER BACK ISSUES. Many issues contain news, articles & photos of Russell Means, Eric Schweig & Wes Studi.


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