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Gary Farmer

Gary Farmer

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: June 12, 1953 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Ohsewekan, Ontario, CA Profession: actor, journalist, producer, director, musician, lecturer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Burly character player Gary Farmer has veered away from stereotypes with the range of roles he has played on stage, screen and TV. With his ample yet imposing frame, large round features, thoughtful eyes and avuncular manner, Farmer has avoided playing the fierce and noble 'savages' typified by the lean leathery likes of a Wes Studi. Rather, his best screen characterizations tend toward the philosophical and even the whimsical. Mainstream Hollywood has generally consigned him to fleeting character bits--more often than not, playing cops and manual laborers--but he has shone in a few indies. Regardless of the size of the role, Farmer brings a sense of dignity leavened with good humor. To place him center stage is to risk having him steal the show. Born into the Cayuga nation within the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy on the Six Nation Reservation outside of Toronto, Farmer began his entertainment career onstage and has remained active in the theater. He has directed and acted for the Native Earth Performing Arts company. His performance in "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing" was a notable success. More recently, he was praised for his heartfelt portrayal of a romantic ex-con--both "empathetic...

Burly character player Gary Farmer has veered away from stereotypes with the range of roles he has played on stage, screen and TV. With his ample yet imposing frame, large round features, thoughtful eyes and avuncular manner, Farmer has avoided playing the fierce and noble 'savages' typified by the lean leathery likes of a Wes Studi. Rather, his best screen characterizations tend toward the philosophical and even the whimsical. Mainstream Hollywood has generally consigned him to fleeting character bits--more often than not, playing cops and manual laborers--but he has shone in a few indies. Regardless of the size of the role, Farmer brings a sense of dignity leavened with good humor. To place him center stage is to risk having him steal the show.

Born into the Cayuga nation within the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy on the Six Nation Reservation outside of Toronto, Farmer began his entertainment career onstage and has remained active in the theater. He has directed and acted for the Native Earth Performing Arts company. His performance in "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing" was a notable success. More recently, he was praised for his heartfelt portrayal of a romantic ex-con--both "empathetic yet scary," according to WEEKLY VARIETY--in "Life Sentences" on the Toronto stage in 1996.

Farmer entered features, inauspiciously, with a small role as a store owner in the dopey comedy hit "Police Academy" (1984). His other bit parts in films included the Canadian adventure "Lost!" (1986), John Schlesinger's Santeria exploitation flick "The Believers" and the 50s-era gambling drama "The Big Town" (both 1987). Farmer finally gained some richly deserved critical attention with his co-starring role in the Native American-themed road movie, "Powwow Highway" (1988). Well paired with A Martinez's angry firebrand, Farmer played an easy-going loner on a "medicine journey" to become a spiritual warrior who gives his old friend a ride. The rapport between the two actors and their characters lent the story what Roger Ebert called a "magical intensity." The film won praise both for its careful research into American Indian customs and for the palpable sense of community it conveyed. Reviewers were so thoroughly persuaded by the seeming authenticity and singularity of Farmer's character that some were surprised to learn that he was a professional actor.

Farmer's screen time grew, but the films themselves were either low-budget or low-profile. He provided sturdy support in the dramas "Renegade" (1989), "The Dark Wind" (1991) and "Sioux City" (1994) before winning kudos for a rare starring role as a childlike man who befriends his developmentally challenged young nephew in the Canadian-made "Henry & Verlin" (1994). Farmer paid some bills by playing a portly cop in the lurid horror-comedy "Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight" (1995) before walking off with the acting honors for "Dead Man" (1996), Jim Jarmusch's perversely eccentric and mystical Western. As Nobody, a 19th century Native American outcast--educated in Europe and estranged from his own people--who befriends the fugitive accountant-turned-gunfighter Johnny Depp, Farmer created a magical character who guides the dying white man on an impromptu spiritual journey. The film opened to mixed reviews and pathetic business but Farmer was honored with several awards and nominations for his performance. He subsequently blended nicely into the stylized period settings of the surreal gay-themed Canadian drama "Lilies" (1996).

In addition to acting, Farmer has lectured at college campuses in the USA and Canada on Native subjects. He is respected as both a community activist and a dedicated promoter of Native culture. In the latter capacity, Farmer founded and has served as editor-in-chief for the independent periodical ABORIGINAL VOICES.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  What the Eagle Hears (2000) Director
2.
  Hero, The (1995) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Jimmy Picard (2013)
2.
3.
 Good Neighbors (2011)
4.
 Swing Vote (2008)
5.
 Evergreen (2004) Jim
6.
 Twist (2003) Fagin
7.
 Big Empty, The (2003) Indian Bob
8.
 Republic of Love, The (2003) Ted
9.
 Skins (2002) Verdell Weasel Tail
10.
 Adaptation. (2002) Buster Baxley
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1984:
Feature film debut, "Police Academy"
1985:
TV-movie debut, "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" (PBS)
1988:
First supporting role in feature film, "Blue City Slammers"
1989:
First co-starring feature role, "Powwow Highway"
1990:
Had large supporting role in TV-movie "Sparks: The Price of Passion" (CBS)
1991:
Appeared in the supporting role of the Hopi colleague of Lou Diamond Philips' putupon tribal officer in "The Dark Wind", the film version of Tony Hillerman's detective novel set on a Navajo reservation in Arizona
:
Debut as a TV series regular, played Capt. Joe Stonetree on the first season of the supernatural cop show, "Forever Knight" (then on CBS)
1994:
Co-starred in Canadian drama "Henry & Verlin"; nominated for Canadian Genie Award for Best Actor
1994:
Founded and served as editor-in-chief on ABORIGINAL VOICES, an independent Native publication focusing on the communicative arts (date approximate)
1995:
Directed short Canadian film "The Hero"; screened at Sundance Film Festival in 1996 as part of the "Beyond Borders: New Native Cinema" program
1995:
Co-starred with Johnny Depp in Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man"; hailed for performance as Nobody, a mixed-blood Indian educated in the East and Europe (released in the USA in 1996)
1999:
Appeared in "Smoke Signals"
1999:
Film "The Gift" screened at Sundance Film Festival
2000:
Returned to Sundance Film Fetival with "What the Eagle Hears"
2000:
Made cameo appearance in "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samaurai"
2002:
Acted in "Skins", helmed by Chris Eyre and screened at Sundance
2004:
Starred as Fagin in "Twist" a queer 'Oliver Twist' update set in the hustler district of modern-day Montreal
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Education

Syracuse University: Syracuse , New York -
Ryerson Polytechnical University: Toronto , Ontario -
Ryerson Polytechnical University: Toronto , Ontario -

Notes

Farmer is a producer and director in radio and TV.

He is a blues harmonica player.

"Farmer's Philbert is a wonderful creation: a huge, lumbering totem-pole of a man whose heart matches his enormous appetite, and whose easygoing nature softens a determination as strong as [the more angry and militant] Buddy's." --Tom Charity, review of "Powwow Highway" in "Time Out Film Guide", (London: Penguin Books, 1995)

"One of the reasons we see movies is to meet people we have not met before. It will be a long time before I forget Gary Farmer [in "Powwow Highway" 1989] , who disappears into the Philbert role so completely we almost think he IS this simple, open-hearted man--until we learn he's an actor and teacher from near Toronto. It's one of the most wholly convincing performances I've seen." --Review of "Powwow Highway" in "Roger Ebert's Video Companion (1995 Edition)", (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1994).

From "Making Dead Man: A Conversation with Producer Demetra MacBride and Production Sound Mixer Drew Kunin" from the presskit for "Dead Man":

DK: It [the Native American involvement] was wonderful. It was a very strong feeling having them there ... They really got into it in a way that was mutually satisfying for us and them. And Gary Farmer is a seminal figure ...

DM: He's a forerunner and he's very well known and very highly respected amongst the Native American communities. He's very much into the preservation, the resurrection, the making-of-a-place for Native American culture in North America ...

DM: Jim always wanted him for Nobody from the time he saw "Powwow Highway". And--this I can say because I've heard Jim say it before--he didn't want a Native American who was the stereotypical white man's idea of the sinewy noble savage. This was a man who had been ripped from his culture, taken East, taken overseas, and had his culture, quite against his will, perverted for him.

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