Oscar Actors: Greene, Graham–Background, Career, Awards

Updated July 1, 2020
Graham Greene Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: NA

Social Class: middle; father maintenance man; mother paramedic

Race: First Nations Canadian



Training: Indigenous Theatre’s Native Theatre School program in 1974, age 22

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut: “The Great Detective” in 1979, age 27

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: “Running Brave,” 1983, age 31

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role: Dances with Wolves, 1990; age 38

Other Noms:

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:





Graham Greene, CM (born June 22, 1952) is a First Nations Canadian actor who has worked on stage, in film, and in TV productions in Canada, the UK, and the US.

He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Dances with Wolves (1990).

Other notable films include Thunderheart (1992), Maverick (1994), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), The Green Mile (1999), Skins (2002), Transamerica (2005), Casino Jack (2010), Winter’s Tale (2014), The Shack (2017) and Wind River (2017).

Greene is an Oneida born in Ohsweken, on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, the son of Lillian and John Greene, who was a paramedic and maintenance man. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, as a young adult.

He worked as an audio technician for rock bands based in Newfoundland and Labrador, when he went by the alias “Mabes.”

He graduated from the Toronto-based Centre for Indigenous Theatre’s Native Theatre School program in 1974. Soon after, he began performing in professional theatre in Toronto and England.

His TV debut was in an episode of “The Great Detective” in 1979, and his screen debut was in 1983 in “Running Brave.”

He appeared in such films as Revolution and Powwow Highway, as well as the First Nations’ CBC TV series Spirit Bay. It was his Academy Award–nominated role as Kicking Bird (Lakota: Ziŋtká Nagwáka) in the 1990 film Dances with Wolves that brought him fame.

He followed this role with work in films including Thunderheart, Benefit of the Doubt, and Maverick, and television series Northern Exposure and The Red Green Show. Greene also acted alongside Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1995 film Die Hard with a Vengeance, where he played Detective Joe Lambert. He hosted the reality crime documentary show Exhibit A: Secrets of Forensic Science.

Greene co-starred as Slick Nakai with Adam Beach and Wes Studi in the film A Thief of Time (2004) and Coyote Waits, both adapted from Tony Hillerman novels of the same names and produced by Robert Redford. In 1992, Greene played the role of Ishi, the last Yahi, in the HBO drama The Last of His Tribe. He appeared that year in the contemporary action-mystery film, Thunderheart (1992), playing Walter Crow Horse, a gruff, savvy local cop living on an Indian reservation.

In 1994, he began appearing as Mr. Crabby Tree in the children’s series The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon, for which he received the Gemini Award. Poltergeist The Legacy: Finding Richter aired May 9, 1997. In 1997, Greene suffered a major depressive episode, and had to be hospitalized after a police encounter. He recovered after help from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

Greene was featured as Arlen Bitterbuck, a Native American convicted of murder, awaiting execution on death row in the Oscar-nominated The Green Mile (1999).

He starred in the short-lived TV series Wolf Lake in 2001. In 2002 and 2004, he co-starred in two made-for-TV films that were an attempt at launching a revival of the long-running Canadian series The Beachcombers.

In 2005, he played the potential love interest of the female lead in Transamerica. He appeared as himself in a parody of the famous Lakota-brand pain reliever commercials, on CBC Television’s Rick Mercer Report.

In 2006, Greene presented the documentary series “The War that Made America,” about the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) of the mid–18th century in North America.

In 2007, he appeared as Shylock in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of The Merchant of Venice as well as Breakfast with Scott. In June 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from the Brantford campus of Wilfrid Laurier University located near the Six Nations reserve he is from.

Greene provided the pre-recorded narration for Tecumseh!, the acclaimed outdoor show held in Ohio, based upon the life of the illustrious Shawnee chief of that name. He portrayed Sitting Bull in a short Historica vignette.

He was a guest star in an episode of the TV series Numb3rs, as a First Nations chief. He also guest-starred on multiple occasions on The Red Green Show as Edgar “K.B.” Montrose, an explosives enthusiast. In one episode of “The Red Green Show” (season 5, episode 1) he was asked what he thought of the movie Dances with Wolves. Greene’s reply was that “…the native guy (himself as ‘Kicking Bird’) was OK. Should have gotten the Oscar. But the rest of it was a yawn!”

Greene also made a cameo in an episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce. In the sketch, Jacques Cartier (Don Ferguson) has to go through customs, whose officer is played by Greene. When Cartier asks Greene if he was in that movie Dances with Wolves, Greene replies “yes”. Cartier asks his name and Greene says “Kevin Costner”.

He appeared in The Twilight Saga: New Moon as Harry Clearwater, Charlie Swan’s old friend. He appeared as Malachi Strand in Longmire, which ran for six seasons from 2012 to 2017 on A&E and Netflix. He played Rafe McCawley in the science fiction series Defiance, which ran for three seasons from 2013 to 2015. He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

In 2018, Greene provided the voice of the beleaguered Native-American elder Rains Fall in the western-themed video game “Red Dead Redemption II.”

Currently, Greene appears in Amazon’s series Goliath.