Full-blooded Cherokee actor Wes Studi didn't discover his true calling until much later in life than most actors. Stricken by his vocational teacher's early advice that he should be realistic and settle for life as a low-paid and under-appreciated worker, Studi admits that the advice cast a shadow under which he lived for years, uninspired to seek his fortune in the face of overwhelming adversity and slim odds of finding true success.
Born in Nofire Hollow, OK, in 1946 (or maybe 1947), Studi laughingly admits that there is some uncertainty to the actual date), the soft-spoken actor was the eldest of four sons and spent the majority of his childhood in Northeastern Oklahoma. The son of a ranch hand, Studi received his early education at Chilocco Indian School before graduating high school and being drafted into the army. Soon after being drafted Studi served 18 months in Vietnam.
Returning disillusioned by the horrors of war and the sometimes hostile reception that veterans received, Studi drifted for a couple of years, spending much of his time traveling and visiting his old Vietnam buddies. Seeking further sustenance, Studi entered Tulsa Junior College on the G.I. Bill. After Tulsa, Studi became inspired to make a difference in peoples lives, soon joining the American Indian Movement. Later attending Tahlequah University, Studi made further attempts at positive influence in his work with the Cherokee Nation.
Though he had been married previously, the relationship had failed and Studi remarried in 1974. Working for the Tulsa Indian Times while his wife worked as a teacher, the couple had two children while living in their Tulsa ranch before his second marriage suffered the same unfortunate fate as his first. It was the breakup of this marriage that found Studi discovering his true calling as an actor.
Studi found success appearing in theater as well as in productions for Nebraska Public Television in the summer of 1985. It was after Studi's role in the 1988 PBS production The Trial of Standing Bear that he fully realized his passion for acting. Soon deciding to make the fateful move to Los Angeles, Studi found work in such films as Dances With Wolves (1990) and Last of the Mohicans (1992) before taking a starring role in 1993's Geronimo: An American Legend. Making memorable appearances in such films as Heat (1995), Crazy Horse (1996), and Deep Rising (1998), Studi flourished in his new calling, finding frequent work with his expressive features and warm sense of humor.