Six Caucasian Actors Unconvincingly Playing Native Americans

By Matt Prigge 
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Jun. 16, 2009

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Rock Hudson, Winchester ‘73 (1950): For longer than anyone would think tasteful, Native American characters in Hollywood—be they portrayed as noble 
savages or just plain savages—were played by whitey. Not many were passably “injun,” but few were less “injun” than Rock Hudson who popped up as a stern but decent leader in this Jimmy Stewart-as-a-dick Western from Anthony Mann.

Victor Mature, Chief Crazy Horse (1955): The Custer-Crazy Horse story is usually told from the hubristic side of the former, but here the filmmakers at least had the good sense to cast matinee idol Victor 
Mature, he of noticeably Swedish descent.

Audrey Hepburn, The Unforgiven (1960): In John Huston’s film, a thriving frontier family discovers their daughter, played by Hepburn, was originally stolen from a Kiowan tribe. I mean, who could tell?

Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles (1974): During Religulous Bill Maher finds someone who mentions that Mormons believe that Native Americans are a lost, cursed tribe of Judaism. Cut to Mel Brooks as a Yiddish-speaking injun chief in his Western parody.

Johnny Depp, The Brave (1997): Depp forbade U.S. distribution of his sole directorial effort, about a modern-day Native American who agrees to be killed to support his family. Depp decided to play the lead himself—just the start of the film’s problems.

Mickey Rourke, Killshot (2008): Rourke gives the most credible performance in this long-shelved Elmore Leonard take, and yet he’s apparently playing a Native American by way of Schenectady. Diane Lane’s character talks of not being able “to get that Indian’s face out of my mind.” Does she mean Mickey Rourke ?

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. SisterCoyote said... on Jun 17, 2009 at 01:30PM

“What about Martin Landau in Hallelujah Trail?”

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2. Matt K said... on Jun 17, 2009 at 02:46PM

“Natalie Wood in "The Searchers".... or rather, every "Native American" in "The Searchers" (a really fantastic movie otherwise).”

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3. Spike said... on Jun 17, 2009 at 03:21PM

“I thought Johnny Depp WAS native american?”

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4. Matt Prigge said... on Jun 17, 2009 at 03:59PM

“Natalie Wood is a white girl stolen by the "injuns" in The Searchers.

And Depp, while part-Cherokee (and German, and Irish), would never fit in with, say, Wes Studi or Gary Farmer or Graham Greene (of Dances With Wolves, not The Power and the Glory). The Brave acts as though he could, which is what's surreal about it.

Incidentally, someone else pointed out George C. Scott in Firestarter, which I can't believe I forgot about.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jun 18, 2009 at 11:44PM

“Johnny Depp has said in interviews that he is of Cherokee, Irish, and German descent, with some Navajo as well.”

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6. jj said... on Jun 19, 2009 at 07:04PM

“john hinkley jr couldnt tell the difference between the movies& reality neither. jj”

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7. Anonymous said... on Sep 30, 2009 at 04:52AM

“when i saw johnny depp first I thought he indian or something... I think he did a good job actually. I have a friend who is indian and he looks a lot like him”

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8. Anonymous said... on Sep 30, 2009 at 05:00AM

“I agree with the comment above... In the film neverland i think he was unconvincing at playing a caucasian scottish person - seemed miscast I thought specially when you saw him side by side with the others”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jan 26, 2010 at 07:58PM

“Mickey Rourke wears a buffalo skull w/ eagle feather on his shoulder - Native American influence. There are many in hollyweird celebrities who subltely reveal where they come from.”

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10. Angela B. said... on May 25, 2012 at 03:54AM

“Kind of a stretch to put Depp in a list with all these (deserved) other actors when he clearly has Native features.”

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11. Native said... on Jan 10, 2013 at 03:22PM

“There are over 500 tribes in North America alone who have different languages, history, stories, beliefs. etc. although yes, some are similar. Saying someone "has native features" is ignorant and nonsensical, because there are a variety of looks depending on what tribe you are from, and in some cases, what else you're mixed with.

BTW a lot of people claim Cherokee, and its generally when we kinda laugh, because they don't know what band of Cherokee they're from. Not doubting them, because there was a lot of raping, forcible marriages, and yes intermarrying more in the east. BEING Cherokee, knowing your people, your traditions, stories, beliefs, etc. is very, very different fom claiming descent especially without proving it in any way.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 21, 2013 at 10:08AM

“How about Chuck Connors as Geronimo?”


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