Graham Greene is an actor, not just an Indian actor

April 08, 1992|By Orange County Register

Actor Graham Greene, nominated as Best Supporting Actor last year for his portrayal of an American Indian in "Dances With Wolves," is back this year in "Thunderheart," which opened last week.

But Mr. Greene, a Canadian member of the Oneida Nation, has been typecast so often in the movies that he said he's getting tired of playing Indians.

"I feel like a gimmick in every script that's sent to me," he said recently. "It seems that every time writers get together to write a script, they've got to drag this Native issue with them. Well, I'm fed up with being mystical and stoic; I want to shake this stigma. I just want to play a regular guy for a change."

But "Thunderheart" is a step in the right direction, Mr. Greene said. At least this time he plays a contemporary character.

Mr. Greene plays Walter Crow Horse, a witty and shrewd reservation police officer who assists FBI investigators searching for a murder suspect.

Director Michael Apted "gave me a pretty free hand in developing the character," Mr. Greene said. "I suggested that we make the guy funny, and Michael said OK. It was that simple."

The film, based on incidents that occurred during the 1970s on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, has a strong political message. But Mr. Greene, 39, doesn't want to hear any of that.

"It's a good adventure and a good murder mystery, and I approached it as any professional actor would approach any role," he said.

"I'm just not very political, and I don't do a particular film because I want to hammer somebody over the head with some message or jump up on a soapbox and bark about something I don't know anything about."

Mr. Greene, born on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario, was a draftsman before he began working as an audio technician for rock bands in the '70s. In the next decade, he moved to England and started doing theater work.

His film career began when he was cast in the 1985 Al Pacino film "Revolution," but it wasn't until Kevin Costner put him in "Dances With Wolves" that his career took off.

Besides "Thunderheart," Mr. Greene has two films completed ("Last of His People" is now being shown on HBO and "Clearcut" is scheduled to be released soon) and will star in his own Canadian-based TV series next season.

In the series, he plays an Italian named Johnny D'Angelo.

"I hope the series takes care of that typecasting problem forever," Mr. Greene said. "They always refer to me as Graham Greene, the Native actor. They never refer to Jon Voight [his HBO co-star] as Jon Voight, the white actor. They never call Robert De Niro the Italian actor.

"I just want to be called an actor. Period."

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