Family & Companions
Canadian actor Adam Beach parlayed his success in a string of independent features and television series into major roles in Hollywood productions, including the lead role of tragic figure Ira Hayes in Clint Eastwood-helmed WWII drama, "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006). With the exposure provided by such a high profile project and director, Beach's versatility and appeal made him the most visible Native American actor working in film. This emergence allowed Beach to bring his own experiences and inspiration back to Native American youth living in reservations across the country. Beach continued working steadily on First Nations-themed films and TV series largely shot in his native Canada and American features ranging from "Cowboys and Aliens" (2011) to the supervillain ensemble blockbuster "Suicide Squad" (2016).
Born Nov. 11, 1972 in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, Beach was a First Nation (indigenous people of Canada) of Saulteaux origin. He and his family lived on the Dog Creek Reservation until he reached age eight, when he lost both parents to tragic accidents within a three-month span. Beach and his brothers were adopted and raised by and aunt and uncle, quickly relocating to Winnipeg, where he joined his high school drama club on a lark. But he quickly fell in love with performing (Beach credited Johnny Depp, who is part Cherokee, as his inspiration), and dropped out of high school to accept roles at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People.
Beach's first on-screen credit came in 1990 when, at the age of 18, he was cast in a supporting role in the TV movie, "Lost in the Barrens." Roles in other Canadian TV and theater productions followed, including the lead in the Disney historical drama, "Squanto: A Warrior's Tale" (1995). But Beach's breakout role came in Bruce McDonald's independent feature, "Dance Me Outside" (1995). Based on a novel by W.P. Kinsella, the film, which focused on the personal lives of several residents of a Canadian reservation, won over film audiences with its wit and style, and Beach was frequently singled out for his comic flair as the best pal of the film's lead. The success of the film led to a TV spin-off series, "The Rez" (CBC, 1995-98), with Beach in the cast (though not playing his film character).
Beach continued to work steadily following "Dance Me Outside;" he also fathered two sons in 1996 and 1998. In the latter year, he landed another career highlight in Chris Eyre's "Smoke Signals," a comedy-drama about two young men dealing with their families and heritage during a road trip to collect the remains of one man's father. The film, which was the first entirely written, produced, directed by and starring Native American artists, netted numerous awards on the festival circuit (including the Sundance Film Festival and Independent Spirit Award), and helped bring Beach to Hollywood's attention.
A small role in the comedy-drama "Mystery, Alaska" (1999) was Beach's first inroad as a newly minted buzz item; he also flexed his comic muscles as David Spade's sidekick in the lowbrow jokefest "Joe Dirt" (2001). This was soon followed by his most substantial role to date as a Navajo soldier utilized by the U.S. Army to deliver code in their native language during World War II in John Woo's "Windtalkers" (2002). Not from the Navajo tribe, Beach convinced Woo that he could hold his own with leading men Nicholas Cage and Christian Slater. For this role, Beach had to learn to speak Navajo, which he mastered in no time. Though not a blockbuster hit, the film gave Beach a sizable showcase, proving he could more than hold his own against major American stars like Cage.
That same year, Beach reunited with Chris Eyre to co-star for executive producer Robert Redford in "Skinwalkers," a PBS production based on the mystery novel by Tony Hillerman. As Navajo reservation officer Jim Chee, Beach was partnered with Wes Studi's plainclothes detective Joe Leaphorn; the pair reunited for two subsequent productions based on Hillerman's novels, all of which enjoyed considerable popularity with public television viewers.
Between 2004-06, Beach bounced between film and television, with appearances on "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005), "Everwood" (The WB/ABC Family, 2002-06), and a cameo in the execrable Paris Hilton feature, "Bottom's Up" (2006). That same year, he once again found himself in possession of an impressive role - that of WWII soldier Ira Hayes, one of the GIs that raised the flag on Iwo Jima, and whose life took a dramatic and tragic turn upon returning to civilian life, in "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006). As the alcoholic soldier who is treated like a hero at war, but haunted by the racism of the times in his civilian life, Beach wowed the critics, who singled out his performance for its singular quality in a picture filled with top talent.
An adaptation of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO 2007) was followed by two seasons on the long-running procedural drama "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC 1999- ), as well as the starring role in the Canadian sitcom "Moose TV" (Showcase 2007-08), written by beloved Canadian novelist Paul Quarrington. The title role in animated adventure "Turok: Son of Stone" (2008) brought Beach his first voice role. Starring roles in historical drama "Older Than America" (2008) and action thriller "The Stranger" (2010) followed, along with supporting roles in romantic drama "A Warrior's Heart" (2011) and big-budget science-fiction western "Cowboys and Aliens" (2011). Returning to television, Beach had a supporting role in military drama "Combat Hospital" (ABC 2011) before starring in aviation drama "Arctic Air" (CBC 2012-14) for two seasons. Science fiction thriller "Ice Soldiers" (2013) was followed by a return appearance in David Spade's "Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser" (Crackle 2015). The following year, Beach co-starred as Slipknot in DC Comics blockbuster "Suicide Squad" (2016).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
After parents' deaths, moved to Winnipeg when he was adopted by an aunt and uncle
TV acting debut in "Lonesome Dove" (CBS)
Feature debut in "Cadillac Girls"
Co-starred in "Dance Me Outside," directed by Bruce McDonald
Had supporting role in the feature "A Boy Called Hate"
Reunited with Bruce McDonald on the Canadian TV series "The Rez"
Appeared on the Canadian TV series "Madison"
Breakthrough screen role as one of the leads in "Smoke Signals"
Supported Russell Crowe in the hockey comedy-drama "Mystery, Alaska"
Had lead in the CBC series "Harry's Case"
Appeared in "Joe Dirt"
Starred alongside Wes Studi in the TV adaptation of "Skinwalkers" for airing on PBS' "Mystery!"
Co-starred with Nicolas Cage in the WWII drama "Windtalkers"
Starred in "The Big Empty"
Portrayed Ira Hayes, one of the men who lifted the flag at the battle of Iwo Jima in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers"
Joined the cast of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC) for one season only, as Detective Chester Lake
Starred in the HBO Films' adaptation of Dee Brown's novel, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" as the Sioux advocate, author and medical doctor Ohiyesa; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor
Played Tommy Flute for one season on the HBO drama "Big Love"
Co-starred in the sci-fi action thriller "Cowboys & Aliens"
Nabbed a supporting role in the thriller "September Runs Red"
Starred on the TV series "Arctic Air"
Nabbed a supporting role in the action-thriller "Diablo"
Played Slipknot in the star-packed summer blockbuster "Suicide Squad"