Wes Studi calls historic Oscar 'overwhelmingly amazing'

By Karen Butler
Actor and activist Wes Studi will become the first Native American Oscar winner at the Governors Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Actor and activist Wes Studi will become the first Native American Oscar winner at the Governors Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Cherokee actor, activist and Vietnam veteran Wes Studi is poised to become the first Native American actor to be presented with an Oscar at Sunday's Governors Awards gala in Los Angeles.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in June that it planned to celebrate Studi's extraordinary career with an honorary Oscar at its annual fall ceremony.


"It's overwhelmingly amazing," Studi told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"It's recognition of a body of work that's taken me 30-some-odd years to put together, and it really is kind of overwhelming that my peers in the business have recognized my work and think that it's deserving of an award."

The 71-year-old Oklahoma native -- who is known for his unforgettable performances in the films Hostiles, Avatar, Geronimo, The Last of the Mohicans and Dances with Wolves -- was preparing his Oscar acceptance speech this week.


"I'm definitely getting nervous about it. I hope I am able to give credit where credit is due and to be able to see, as well as communicate with, people I have worked with throughout the past," Studi said.

He also wants his remarks to convey to Native actors just starting out that "these things are possible."

"It opens a door in a way," he said. "It has provided possibility."

Studi, who has eight projects in various stages of production, hasn't given up his dream of winning a competitive Oscar.

"As much as I appreciate this award, I'm definitely still looking for that one award for an individual performance," he said, adding he considers his work ethic among his greatest achievements.

"Just doing the best I possibly could has always been a goal of mine."

Studi said he understands the impact art can have on people and appreciates being part of films widely regarded as timeless classics.

"Hopefully, the story gets across the intended purpose -- not only entertaining, but also passing on virtues, as well as failings of our human race," he said. "Storytelling is one of the most important ways of passing on cultures and of maintaining them."


Over the course of his career, he has seen considerable progress made in the variety in the voices heard in the film and television industries, particularly now that there are so many types of media through which artists can express themselves.

"Diversity and authenticity of stories is important, and I appreciate the fact that filmmakers are including that in their ideas when writing stories," he said.

Busy as Studi is, the married father of three also is a tireless advocate for Native Americans and military veterans.

"I try to act upon things I feel strongly about and this platform of celebrity does reach more people," the actor said.

A recent series of public service announcements of which he has been a part deals with misconceptions about Native Americans' lives on reservations and these communities' relationships with the federal government.

"More people can be made aware that some things have changed, but too many things remain the same," he said. "It's a call-out to all to give a little bit more thought about how we have developed as a nation and we as Native Americans have played a large part in all of this and, unfortunately, that fact is not very well remembered by the people of the United States."


At the 2018 Oscars ceremony, Studi introduced a montage of military movies. He spoke about the courage and sacrifice of those who serve their country, delivering part of his speech in the Cherokee language.

The must-see moment earned Studi the gratitude of veterans around the world.

"Veterans have, whether by scheme or whether by chance, really sacrificed a lot of their lives -- pieces of their lives or perhaps even their actual lives -- for purposes that went far beyond them as individuals, and I don't know that the federal government that we served appreciates it," he said.

"I know that we are appreciated in words, but I want to see veterans appreciated in action, as well. It's just something I feel strongly about -- that a nation should serve its people that have served it."

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