BY JEFF BAHR
9:57 PM PDT, September 28, 2012
At the Capitol Theater on Friday night, the South Dakota Film Festival celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Thunderheart,” a film that was shot almost entirely in South Dakota.
The special guest was actor Graham Greene, who took part in a question-and-answer session following a screening of “Thunderheart.” Greene played Walter Crow Horse in the 1992 film.
Before the screening, the audience saw a video message from Michael Apted, the director of “Thunderheart.”
In the video, Apted said he was thrilled that the festival was screening “Thunderheart” and celebrating the film. He's always been proud of the picture, he said. “I think the film stands the test of time.”
He thanked South Dakotans for their help in making the film, and he thanked Greene “for representing us” at the festival. Apted, who is currently in his native England, said he will never forget the generosity of South Dakotans. “I hope to be back there sometime soon,” he said.
Tom Black, one of the festival's producers, noted that “Thunderheart” was the first film made by Tribeca Productions. Jane Rosenthal, one of Tribeca’s co-founders, had to cancel her trip to Aberdeen because of a neck injury. She sent a video message in her stead. Another founder of Tribeca is actor Robert DeNiro.
After the screening, a statement was read from John Fusco, the writer and one of three producers of “Thunderheart.”
In the statement, Fusco wrote that having the film's 20-year anniversary “recognized at the South Dakota Film Festival is a great honor to all of us filmmakers involved, and to me personally.”
He also wrote that “of the films I have written over a 27-year career, there are none as meaningful or as close to my heart. During the five years it took for me to research and write the screenplay, South Dakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation became a second home to me.”
Every draft of the original screenplay was shared with the people of the Oglala-Lakota Nation, he wrote.
“It should be noted that Robert DeNiro himself traveled to join me on Pine Ridge during the research and writing so that he could see the way things were in person,” Fusco wrote. “In fact, DeNiro lost an expensive beaded choker to Grandpa Fools Crow in a trade. Grandpa gave him a rock.”
Fusco wrote that many involved in the film had witnessed and endured the true events that he based his story on. “For many, the making of ‘Thunderheart’ was cathartic and healing. It is because of this very real heartbeat behind the film that it still resonates and endures after 20 years.”
Greene attended a VIP reception before Friday evening's session.
Greene, 60, lives in Toronto. In what part of Canada did he grow up?
“I haven’t yet,” he said in an interview.
Since his first professional work in 1976, Greene has acted in many different films and TV shows — dramas, action films and comedies. His work includes “The Green Mile” “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” “Northern Exposure” and “The Red Green Show.” In addition, he played Harry Clearwater in the 2009 film, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
For what project is he recognized the most?
“Oh, I have no idea. I just get recognized, I guess, because of what I do for a living,” he said.
Greene was born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Does he feel a bond with American Indians?
“Well, I feel a bond with everybody on this planet” — not just native people, he said. “We're all walking on the same planet.”
What kind of projects or parts does Greene enjoy the most? “Well, they're all the same as long as it's interesting and I can have fun,” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff I like to do.”
The key reason he agreed to attend the festival was “a chance to come to South Dakota,” he said.
“It's a great pleasure to be here.”
Greene has acted in at least four films shot in South Dakota. He had a major role in 1990's “Dances With Wolves.” He was billed third, just after Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell, for his role as Kicking Bird. His other films include “Skins” in 2002 and “Powwow Highway” in 1989.
He was asked why “Dances with Wolves” resonates so strongly with South Dakotans.
“Well, I guess it's had an impact on everybody,” he said. “It's a really good film.”