Studi discusses new movie, movie making
BY WILL CHAVEZ
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Cherokee actor Wes Studi on July 12 took time from promoting his latest movie “Fire & Rescue” to talk with reporters at the annual National Native Media Conference.
Studi discussed his role as “Windlifter” in the Disney animated feature “Fire & Rescue.” According to Disney’s website, “Windlifter” is a heavy-lift helicopter that can hoist dozens of trees or a huge tank of fire retardant. “The American Indian helicopter’s wisdom is vast and he’s chock full of fire folklore, and his connection to nature allows him to sense fires before they’re even spotted,” the website states.
Studi said he believes “people will see him in another kind of light” after watching “Fire & Rescue.”
“It’s my first time doing a full-length animated feature,” he said. “I’ve actually done the other form of animation, which is performance and motion-capture.”
He said he hopes the movie also brings to light that Indian people have long been involved with fighting forest fires, including the Cherokee people.
“Some of the most respected fire-fighting teams are not only Cherokee but Native Americans from everywhere because we’ve been in the business of it for so long and in a way in kind of comes natural. That’s a good thing,” he said.
In 2009, he was involved in the groundbreaking movie “Avatar,” which used motion-capture to create its characters and established new benchmarks for digitally created movies. He played the Na’vi leader “Eytukan.” To create “Eytukan,” Studi said he wore a “digital suit” that collected information and sent that information to computers to create an image.
“The difference is in motion-capture your scene is blocked out and you work like you’re on stage or on camera. The only difference being is you work with no makeup or wardrobe except for this digital wardrobe that you have to get into,” he said. “There’s a camera in front of your face that tracks the entire movement of your facial structure.”
Studi said making “Fire & Rescue” was a similar experience because he had only a director speaking in his ear and a microphone to work with as he recorded his voice for the movie.
He said he hopes the younger members of his family appreciate the movie, and he’s glad it’s being shown in theaters nationwide.
Studi now has nearly 80 acting credits to his name since his movie career began in 1988. Some of the roles he is best known for are “Toughest Pawnee” in “Dances with Wolves,” the Huron/Mohawk character “Magua” from “The Last of the Mohicans” and the Apache leader Geronimo in “Geronimo: An American Legend.”
He is also known for his role in the movie “Heat” where he played “Detective Casals,” his role as “Sphinx” in “Mystery Men” and for playing the Cherokee leader “Major Ridge” in the television 2009 series “We Shall Remain.”
Studi said he has been able to play a Cherokee character only twice in his 26-year movie career and would “love to play” more Cherokee characters.
“The last time was the Trail of Tears part of the “We Shall Remain” series. I guess we Cherokees are not that interesting or something,” he said with a laugh.
Studi was a little impatient with the question about what role he is most known for. He relented and confirmed that it’s “Magua,” especially the scene in “The Last of the Mohicans” where he pulls out the heart of “Colonel Munro” and holds it up as an act of revenge.
Studi said in life he likes comedy and he “likes cracking jokes,” but he also enjoys playing dramatic parts.
In another recent role, he played the character “Cochise” in the movie “A Million Ways to Die in the West, which was released in June. The Apache Indians portrayed in the movie are involved in humorous scenes in the movie and are not just in the background.
“It was a fun time actually, a fun time for everyone involved,” he said. “A lot of times people expect that comedies are more fun to work on than dramas simply because they’re funny, but that’s not always the case. Comedy, I’ve learned over the years, is a very serious subject to its practitioners. I’m not saying that everything was serious on ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West,’ but there are a lot of good laughs in drama too.”
He said the movie is definitely a (director) Seth McFarlane movie, and for Studi he likes the fact that he appears in a film that is “overtly a comedy.”
Studi also appears in “Road to Paloma,” which opened on July 11. He plays “Numay,” and the movie is about an Indian man on the run after avenging his mother’s murder.
“It’s a little more serious. ‘Road to Paloma’ is a nice film that addresses violence against women on reservations and the obstacles to actually doing something about it. I think it can generate talk and publicity about the issue,” he said.