INT: Adam Beach

Canada native Adam Beach has been working under the radar for a while now, with small roles in a variety of film and TV projects over his 16-year acting career. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS represents his biggest role yet, as he plays Ira Hayes, a Native American Marine whose experiences at Iwo Jima drove him to alcoholism.

Adam Beach recently stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, which opens this week. Check it out.

Adam Beach

The author of Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley, seems very emotional about Ira [Beach's character in the film].

What I know is the first time I talked to James Bradley about Ira, he wears him on his sleeve. You could tell that Ira was very honest and truthful to the way he felt from the stories that he’s heard. He says, out of everybody he’s talked to, when they talk about Ira, it’s all about respect. He’s amazed at how much everybody respected him. There’s got to be a good man in there. There’s got to be a reason why. I saw James at the hotel and he looked at me and it was just endearing. I saw a child in him for some reasons. He’s like ‘You did a great job’. I said, ‘thanks, man’.

What was Ira’s motivation to be in the Marine Corps? He faced racial slurs a lot, even his friends called him Chief.

Well, if you follow the history of Native American peoples, every boy that was growing up back in the hunting buffalo days, you had a purpose and that purpose was to be a warrior to find your spirit and to protect your family and I believe that a lot of our native peoples still have that spirit and it’s an honor to be a Marine because you’re not only fighting for America, you’re also fighting for your ancestral lands and there’s a stronger spirit and drive behind that. Ignorance will always be around. Back in the day, I feel bad about that scene where he was not respected to have a drink but I think we’ve come to a place now where the respect is different and other Marines that I know who are Native American, they know the history, not only of World War 2 or World War 1 and the Indian Wars but also ancestral wars. There’s a heartbeat that they feel that’s embedded in the land we walk.

How hard was it for you to play? Every single scene, someone addressing you is using some kind of racial slur. Is that difficult for you to deal with as an actor?

Growing up, I come from a city that’s predominately native and there’s just a history of people not liking Indians, primarily it’s a fear of what they don’t know. I’ve always been surrounded by ignorance and I’ve been one to grow up in a passive nature. My stepdad, my dad’s brother, he’s very passive so he’s taught me how to just remain passive. My friends growing up in school would always call me “Chief” and I liked it.

Were most of them Native Americans?

No. They are all White and a couple of Black guys too. They’d always call me “Chief” and I didn’t mind because a Chief, for our people, is the highest standard. Out of the States we call them “Chairman”. But [laughing] my buddy accidentally called my cousin “Chief” and he nearly knocked his head off. There’s an acceptance of tolerance of ignorance on different levels. There are some people who have been ridiculed in a way that… like for me to say “Indian” to represent who we are as a people, Indian people understand, ‘yeah, we’re Indian’ but when someone non-Indian says “Indian” it’s ‘now you’re not politically correct’.

In Canada we have like five terminologies. The new one is “First Nation”. Everybody’s lovin’ First Nation. But I think we’ve come into a time now where a lot is tolerable. We just have to heal our wounds from a past that’s been really oppressed, and trying to get rid of the Indian, our culture and our tradition. I think a lot of people could learn from it.

How daunting is it to work with Clint Eastwood? Did you just walk on the set and go “Holy crap, it’s Clint Eastwood?”

I’ll tell you a story. We met for the first time, me, Ryan and Jesse and we’re like [in awe] Clint Eastwood! We’re about to meet him. We were all joking on the plane. Okay, how can we get kicked out of this job? How can we get fired? We were joking.. ‘Let’s push him to say ‘make my day’” We’ll see how long it takes us to get him to say ‘make my day’ without us getting fired. So, we show up on set and we’re sitting there and he comes by wearing this hat and Jesse Bradford says ‘oh hey, what does that say on the back of your hat’? ‘It’s a Latin saying’. He says it in Latin. ‘What does it mean?’ ‘Make My Day!!’ Then he walks away and we’re all like ‘yes! One day and we’re not fired’!

Ira apparently wanted to please his mother, but did he ever have a family?

I don’t know. I didn’t really go into the history of Ira. I really fell into a whole emotional outlet world. My mind went into the horrors of war. ‘What’s the most horrific? What is it that I can embed in my head that, when I think of a friend, I want to cry?’ By the time I showed up, I was a miserable wreck. It’s part of what we do. How far can we take ourselves without hurting ourselves? I found a direct connection in that way of trying to fight against the horrors. ‘It’s not gonna take me down! It’s not, it’s not’.

Then, after ten years it’ll take the best out of you. Just with regard to James Bradley’s story of how he didn’t hear anything from his father. For his father to hide those emotions that long, it takes so much strength. But, for him, he didn’t want to pass it on. Those memories are so strong to carry. I think, with Ira, he knew that he couldn’t hide them so he would end up in situations that would distract from any of those stories. He probably felt so comfortable in jail because he didn’t have to talk to anybody. Drinking is depressant. It’s supposed to shut you down and I think that’s what he wanted. He wanted to sleep. Right now we have post traumatic stress syndrome; you got a pill, you’re good to go.

There’s a lot of talk today about your name coming up for an Oscar. Is that something that would be very meaningful to you?

I think, with this film and success and the doors that it’s opened, I’m like in the barren land. I’ve never seen this far. Like I’m asking my manager, ‘what do we do next?’ I can’t think. But I think being accepted on that level really, I know that the nations of our people across North America it’s one for them. Each step I take is also their success. It’s one that I know will lift the hearts of a lot of people.

You are doing “Comanche Moon” as well. What is it like to step that far back? Indians were so misrepresented in that era. Is that frustrating for you or do you find pride in represented them in the way they should have been?

I like to represent an honesty and a truth about who we are. People were like, ‘well, you’ve got to play this killer’ Nobody realizes, I read history. There was this family I wanted to do a movie on. They were the Star family. There was one of the sons and he was coo-coo. His father told him ‘you can’t live here anymore’ because he was a suicidal murderer. He’d leave and go kill somebody and just come back home. I based this Blue Duck character out of this man because, there had to have existed somebody who just lost it. Hopefully, when people see Blue Duck, there’s some realism in there somewhere….but not too much.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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