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Wes Studi Talks About "The New World" and Terrence Malick

Wes Studi on the Editing, the Language, and Working with Q'Orianka Kilcher


Wes Studi Talks About

Wes Studi in "The New World"

© New Line Cinema
Wes Studi on the Dialogue and Narration in “The New World:” Wes Studi’s character ‘Opechancanough’ doesn’t have any voice-over narration like a lot of the other central characters do in “The New World.” Asked if he was jealous he wasn’t involved in the voice-over process Studi said, “Jealous is not the word.”

Studi had to get everything across through his actions and very limited dialogue. “Actually, I work with a group out of Santa Fe that [are] spokesmen for [the] Indigenous Language Institute. It’s an organization devoted to the maintenance and revitalization of Indigenous languages throughout the world. Right now, we’re mainly in the Americas. What intrigued me, at the beginning, about this film is that there’s a language used for us, the Indians in the film, that is totally revitalized by a fellow from the Smithsonian. He’s a linguist. He took a list of something like 27 words that these English guys wrote down back in the early 1600’s. That, and interviews with surrounding tribes in the area who still had a smidgen of their languages left. He took all that as well as whatever else he could come up with in terms of re-creating this language that we used.

…I have to tell you, I’m a bit disappointed that so much of that particular reinvented language wasn’t used in the film because there’s a lot of dialogue missing from this theatrical release that will, perhaps, be in the DVD, which is an added 30 minutes or something like that. That’s what Terrence is working on at this moment. A lot of effort was put into the recreation of this language as well as… Around the Indian country, it’s been touted as having a lot to do with that, with that language and the use of it. This was the first time I’d seen this cut. I have to tell you I was a bit disappointed. Not only because a lot of my scenes are on the cutting room floor, but there’s not a lot of use of that particular language.”

Studi said he had a lot more dialogue and scenes than what ended up in the theatrical release. “Actual scenes - oh geez, I don’t know how many. I knew they wouldn’t all be in there. There were a lot more scenes in there that I had with Q’Orianka [Kilcher, ‘Pocahontas’] as well as some of the other characters. People are either going to love it or not. I’m sure that’s true of any film that’s made. But I think many people can simply say, ‘It’s not my cup of tea. It’s a beautiful, beautifully shot film. It’s absolutely gorgeous, but…just not my cup of tea.’”

Wes Studi on the Natives’ Perspective in “The New World:” Studi believes the native perspective was minimalized in the final cut. “Oh yeah. I think that’s more or less what I said about the language. Rather than put it in terms of the native perspective… We didn’t expect that but there was, in the beginning, with the original script, there was more involvement where we got to know these characters a little bit more and we knew of the intrigues that were going on. The story itself has plenty of political intrigue that goes on, but what we saw was a love story of sorts. And I’m an action kind of guy myself. That’s been most of my stuff. I thought, ‘Oh, one battle.’ (laughing) And I have some really great scenes of swinging and kicking and clubbing.” Studi said there is more violence and brutality in the scenes he was in that were shot but not used.

Wes Studi on Terrence Malick’s Choice to Show Scenes of Grass: “The New World” features lots of shots of the wind and walking through grass, which is something the director obviously finds intriguing. Studi said, “Yeah. He shoots some really great grass. …Remember ‘Days of Heaven’ and Richard Gere? They were in grass like that too.”

Wes Studi on Shooting in Jamestown: “In reality, my character almost succeeded in burning that down. That was the only settlement that withstood an attack that wiped out six other villages in the area. Right after Powhatan died, Opechancanough got everybody together and within three hours he wiped out six villages simultaneously. Jamestown had gotten word that Ope and the boys were gonna flatten them out and they were more prepared. Jamestown was the only one that wasn’t wiped out. They were able to defend themselves.

Jamestown…the real one I didn’t even see. Virginia is having some kind of huge celebration next year. They’re gearing around that. Along with colonial Williamsburg, which is mostly where we stayed while we were there. It’s a beautiful country. It’s amazing that there are so few mosquitoes. I think they go in there and spray it. It’s really swampy land, you know, but beautiful.”

Page 2: Wes Studi on Newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher and the Casting Process

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