A full-blooded Oneida from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada, actor Graham Greene is best known for playing Native American roles; his characters are almost always positive and very dignified. Though he has provided a strong role model and has proved that there is a place for Native American actors outside the Western genre, he considers himself neither a spokesperson for Native rights, nor a great trail blazer paving the way for other Native American actors in film and television. Instead Greene prefers to think of himself simply as an actor capable of playing any role that comes his way, and indeed, in the rare instances when he is cast in other parts, such as that of a New York detective in Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), he excels.
Unlike other performers, Greene did not grow up with a burning desire to act. Rather his becoming an actor was literally due to the luck of the draw. It happened in the early '70s when he was working as a sound engineer for a popular Canadian band. One of his cohorts thought Greene might make a good actor, but Greene was indifferent. They discussed the matter for a week before they decided to cut a deck of cards. If he lost, he would become an actor. Shortly thereafter, Greene found work on the London stage. It took almost a decade of hard work -- he made his feature film debut in the 1983 sports drama Running Brave -- before he made a name for himself with his Oscar-nominated performance as Kicking Bird in Kevin Costner's epic directorial debut Dances with Wolves (1990). Following his success with Costner's film, Greene became a guest star on various television series, notably L.A. Law, Murder She Wrote, and Northern Exposure, where he had a recurring role as a medicine man/teacher. He also appeared in the PBS American Playhouse production Where the Spirit Lives (1990) and in the well-wrought HBO film The Last of His Tribe (1992). In 1992, he also was excellent as a Sioux policeman who acts as a foil/teacher to starchy FBI agent Val Kilmer in Michael Apted's Thunderheart (1992). In addition to a continued but sporadic film career that included the 1997 Canadian release Wounded, in which he played a recently rehabilitated alcoholic detective who helps solve the murder of a slain forest ranger, Greene appeared on-stage -- most frequently in Toronto -- and did television work that included hosting documentaries. In March of 1997, Greene was reportedly hospitalized following a several hours-long stand-off with Toronto police. Depressed over family and other personal matters, Greene was suicidal and according to the person who called the police, he had guns in his home, though no weapons were used during the encounter which ended peacefully. Greene shares his name with a renowned British author and essayist.