MOVIES: Big and blue, ‘Avatar’ with Wes Studi comes to DVD
Cherokee movie star Wes Studi is no stranger to standing up against an invasion on the big screen.
In James Cameron’s new 3-D, sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar,” Studi lends his voice and face to a computer-generated character whose planet is being invaded by a private army bent on exploiting its resources. As one of the human characters says early in the film, “We have an indigenous population called the Na’vi….They are very hard to kill.”
Leader of the resistance is a familiar role for Studi, 62. Whether in “Geronimo: An American Legend,” “Last of the Mohicans,” or “Dances with Wolves,” Studi has played the indigenous man who fights against incursion.
He recently spoke at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian about tapping into the warrior role. It’s “almost therapeutic how easy it is to get into that mindset of warrior-ism,” Studi said. “You kind of think of the injustice Indian people lived through. It’s pretty easy to draw from the kind of feeling. You have a completely different aggression than the white folks.”
Studi’s “Avatar” character, Eytukan, is native to a lush planet called Pandora. The mercenary army of humans regards the Na’vi as “savages.” As in many a Western in Studi’s portfolio, the army soon learns otherwise. This time, it’s via a paralyzed ex-Marine, played by Sam Worthington, who becomes an Avatar, a hybrid human mind linked with a Na’vi-cloned body. As an Avatar, he falls in love with Eytukan’s daughter, played by Zoe Saldana, and finds himself drawn into the battle to save her world.
In Studi’s projects outside Hollywood, he has been called a Cherokee traditionalist and honored for his work in Native language preservation, particularly the Cherokee language. In “Avatar,” the language of the Na’vi is one of the creations of a computer-generated world in the $300 million production. Studi, who has learned acting roles in Native languages besides his own, considered it just part of the fun of being a blue-skinned alien.
“Because I do speak another tongue besides English,” Studi said, “my tongue is more willing to take chances.”
By Kara Briggs, American Indian News Service