Died: December 31, 1969 (at age 22)
Birthplace: Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, U.S.
Wesley Studi (Cherokee: ᏪᏌ ᏍᏚᏗ) is a Cherokee actor and film producer from Nofire Hollow in Oklahoma. He has won critical acclaim and awards for his portrayal of Native Americans in film. He has appeared in Academy Award-winning films, such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and in the Academy Award-nominated films Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) and The New World (2005). He is also known for portraying Sagat in Street Fighter (1994). Other films he's appeared in are Hostiles, Heat, Mystery Men, Avatar, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and the television series Penny Dreadful.
Studi was born Wesley Studi in a Cherokee family in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, a rural area in Tahlequah named after his mother's family. He is the son of Maggie Studie, a housekeeper, and Andy Studie, a ranch hand. Until he attended elementary school, he spoke only Cherokee at home. He attended Chilocco Indian Agricultural School for high school and graduated in 1964; his vocational major was in dry cleaning.
At the age of 17 Studi enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and had his Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Meeting recently returned Vietnam Veterans, Studi volunteered for active service and went to Vietnam with A Company of the 3rd Battalion 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. He served 18 months in Vietnam. After his discharge, Studi became politically active in American Indian activism. He participated in the Wounded Knee Incident at Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.
Studi appeared in his first film, The Trial of Standing Bear, in 1988. He is best known for his roles as ruthless Native American warriors, such as a Pawnee in Dances with Wolves (1990), 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, about the historic Iroquois League that was based in the area of central and western present-day New York state. It was shot in Virginia. This was part of a group of productions shown over 14 months on TNT as its "Native American initiative", including three television movies and several documentaries. A six-hour history series was told from a Native American perspective. In 1993 Studi had the lead in Geronimo: An American Legend. He showed a talent for comedy as the superhero Sphinx in the 1999 film Mystery Men.
In 2002, Studi brought to life the character of Lt. Joe Leaphorn, for a series of PBS movies based on Tony Hillerman's novels set in the Southwest among the Navajo and Hopi. It was produced by Robert Redford. In 2005, Studi portrayed a character based on chief Opechancanough, leader of the Powhatan Confederacy in Virginia, in the film The New World directed by Terrence Malick. On April 20, 2009, Studi appeared as Major Ridge, a leader of the Cherokee before removal to Indian Territory, in Trail of Tears. This was the third of five episodes in the PBS series We Shall Remain, portraying critical episodes in Native American history after European encounter, part of the public television's acclaimed series American Experience, where Studi spoke only in native Cherokee. In 2009, Studi appeared in James Cameron's science fiction epic Avatar. He played Eytukan, the chieftain of a Na'vi tribe. Studi played Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk in a starring role in the 2017 film Hostiles.
At the 90th Academy Awards, Studi introduced a tribute to military movies, and gave part of his speech in the Cherokee language, of which Studi is a fluent speaker. Studi is the second Native American actor to present at the Academy Awards (Will Rogers hosted in 1934).
After his studies, Studi taught Cherokee language and syllabary and helped found a Cherokee-language newspaper. He went into ranching. After his first marriage ended in divorce, Studi left ranching and started to study acting; a friend had recommended it as a place to meet women. Studi married Maura Dhu, and they moved their family to a farm near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the early 1990s. Maura is the only child of Emmy- and Oscar-winning actor Jack Albertson. Wes and Maura Dhu Studi have a son, Kholan. Studi has a daughter, Leah, and a son, Daniel, from his first marriage. Studi and his wife perform in the band, Firecat of Discord. Studi serves as honorary chair of the national endowment campaign of the Indigenous Language Institute in Santa Fe.
|1988||The Trial of Standing Bear||Long Runner||Nebraska ETV|
|1990||Dances with Wolves||Toughest Pawnee|
|The Flash||Roller||Episode: "Sins of the Father"|
|1991||The Doors||Indian in Desert|
|1992||The Last of the Mohicans||Magua|
|1993||Geronimo: An American Legend||Geronimo|
|The Broken Chain||Seth||TV movie|
|The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards||Himself/Presenter|
|1995||Lone Justice 2||One Horse|
|Heat||Detective Sammy Casals|
|Streets of Laredo||(Famous Shoes) Indian friend of Pea Eye||TV|
|500 Nations||Voice||TV miniseries|
|The Way West||Voice||TV movie documentary|
|1996||The Killing Jar||Cameron|
|1997||Crazy Horse||Red Cloud||TV|
|Adventures from the Book of Virtues||Scarface||Episode: "Perseverance"|
|Promised Land||Jesse Rainbird||Episode: "Outrage"|
|Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western||Himself||TV movie documentary|
|The Horse Whisperer||Parks guard|
|1999||Mystery Men||The Sphinx|
|2001||Ice Planet||Commander Trager|
|Christmas in the Clouds||Bingo Caller|
|Road to Redemption||Frank Lightfoot|
|The Directors||Himself||Episode: "The Films of Michael Mann"|
|Skinwalkers||Lt. Joe Leaphorn|
|2003||Edge of America||Cuch|
|The Ugly One||Father Mike|
|Coyote Waits||Lt. Joe Leaphorn|
|The Lone Ranger||Kulakinah||TV movie|
|2004||Echoes from Juniper Canyon||Grandpa||Voice|
|A Thief of Time||Lt. Joe Leaphorn|
|2005||Into the West||Black Kettle|
|Miracle at Sage Creek||Chief Thomas|
|The Making of 'Miracle at Sage Creek'||Himself/Chief Thomas|
|The New World||Opechancanough|
|The Making of the New World||Himself/Opechancanough||Video documentary|
|The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy||Himself/Presenter|
|Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee||Wovoka|
|2008||Comanche Moon||Buffalo Hump||TV|
|Older Than America||Richard Two Rivers|
|Trail of Tears||Major Ridge|
|Kings||General Linus Abner|
|The Only Good Indian||Sam Franklin (main character)||Executive producer|
|2010||The Mentalist||Joseph Silverwing||Episode: "Aingavite Baa"|
|The Making of 'Last of the Mohicans'||Himself||Video documentary|
|2011||Hell on Wheels||Chief Many Horses||TV|
|Images of Indians: How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native American||Himself/Toughest Pawnee||TV movie documentary|
|Road to Paloma||Numay|
|2014||A Million Ways to Die in the West||Cochise|
|Planes: Fire & Rescue||Windlifter||Voice|
|2015||The Red Road||Chief Levi Gall|
|The Condemned 2||Cyrus Merrick|
|2017||Hostiles||Chief Yellow Hawk|