Oscar Nominee Graham Greene on His Role in ‘Wind River’

Vincent Schilling

With a career spanning 40 years, Graham Greene says he’s lucky to have been an actor for this many decades

There is no arguing that Graham Greene has seen one of the most productive careers of any Native actor. His IMDb page lists over 100 films and television programs. He also won a Grammy in 2000 for his spoken word children’s album, “Listen to the Storyteller.”

Some of his best-known films include Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner, for which he received a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Green Mile, Thunderheart and Powwow Highway. He is also a recurring major character on the TV series Longmire.

Graham Greene plays the leading role of a tribal police officer in the recently released thriller Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. Wind River, which was featured at Cannes and was released in the U.S. on August 4, 2017, is set on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The film stars Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye in Avengers, Bourne Legacy) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch in Avengers and Captain America), and features a list of all-star Native actors, including Gil Birmingham, Tantoo Cardinal, Kelsey Asbille, Tokala Clifford and Martin Sensmeier.

Recently Graham Greene had a few minutes to talk with Indian Country Media Network about his role on Wind River, in addition to telling ICMN about working with such a great cast to include A-list actors Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and director Taylor Sheridan, Greene talked about his long career and offered a few real words about the film industry.

How did it feel to work with other great Native actors?

I worked with those people a lot. I’ve been married to Tantoo about 15 times. I have also worked with Gil Birmingham about four or five times.

Was your character Ben, a tribal police officer, something familiar to you?

It’s hard to say, I’m just a hired gun who does what he’s paid to do. I really don’t get too deep into the character. I’m not one of these guys who just gases on just to hear himself talk.

I have played officers before. For example in Thunderheart, police officers are scattered all over the place. I have played New York cops and all kinds of police officers. The range of what tribal police officers have to look over and after his incredible. I didn’t realize the extent as I come from Canada. We don’t have as much territory to cover on the reserves up here.

Down in the states it’s a whole other story, there is a tribal police officer every hundred miles or something, it is ridiculous.

How many films have you been in?

Oh my gosh, I couldn’t even tell you—probably about 100. My career has been pretty diverse, I have played British officers, French officers, I’ve played judges. I’ve even played a transvestite who jumped out of a window wearing panties and high heels.

Orion Pictures/MGM

Graham Greene as Kicking Bird accompanies lieutenant Dunbar (Kevin Costner) in Dances With Wolves.

Were there some tough parts to filming in that rural of a location?

It was really tough working at that high of an altitude. In my role on the television series Longmire, I play a very bad man and I have to have oxygen there because Santa Fe is 7,000 feet and up to 9,000 feet in Utah. That was pretty tough and a lot of people had to leave.

You’re known to be a person who says things in a very straightforward way. What is your advice for young actors?

Learn how to wait tables, get your cab driver license, learn how to bus tables or even wash dishes. You really do have to do the best thing you possibly can because you can’t always act. A lot of actors think that they’re going to be working. But you are not.

I am lucky. I have been doing this for 40 years, and there’s been times I’ve sat around for three years.

Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) – ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor