Thunderheart


1h 58m 1992

Brief Synopsis

An FBI man gets back in touch with his Native roots investigating a murder on a reservation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Åskhjärta
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Drama
Thriller
Release Date
1992
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, USA; Rapid City, South Dakota, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Synopsis

The story of an FBI agent sent to the badlands to investigate a series of murders, where he soon discovers his Indian roots, and the prejudice that exists.

Crew

Lisa Abbott

Medic

Michael Adams

Stunts

Greg Addison

Electrician

Patrick Allen

Assistant

Lance Anderson

Other

Patricia Androff

Makeup Assistant

James Apted

Production Assistant

David Atherton

Makeup Artist

Bill Ballou

Art Director

George Bamber

Assistant Director

Chuck Banner

Researcher

Maggie Banner

Researcher

Ellen S Barnett

Casting Associate

Jim Behnke

Unit Production Manager

Paula Benson-himes

Production Coordinator

Caroline Bettelyoun

Driver

Larry C Bettelyoun

Driver

Ivica Bilich

Assistant Property Master

Dan Bishop

Production Designer

Jamie Bishop

On-Set Dresser

Seth A Blackbear

Swing Gang

Marles Blackbird

Driver

Donnie Lee Boswell

Driver

Edwin Bowden

Transportation Captain

Ralph Brandofino

Assistant Camera Operator

Grant Brittan

Stunts

Richard Brodsky

Production Assistant

Fred Brown

Sound Editor

Jimmie L Brown

Driver

Shelley Brown

Sound

Lisa Little Chief Bryan

Wardrobe Assistant

Bill Burton

Stunts

Jeff Butcher

Property Master

Christopher Michael Calvert

Driver

Ted Churchill

Steadicam Operator

Lisa Clarkson Milillo

Casting

Art Claunch

Driver

Lucy Coldsnow-smith

Dialogue Editor

Arlo Conroy

Driver

Anthony Corapi

Electrician

Ian Crafford

Editor

Christopher Cronyn

Unit Production Manager

Susan Rangitsch Cronyn

Stunts

John A Crowder

Location Manager

Cliff Cudney

Stunts

Loren F Cuny

Stunts

Marty Paul Cuny

Stunts

Dik Darnell

Researcher

John F. Davis

Storyboard Artist

Tim A Davison

Stunts

Karen Day

Production Accountant

Robert De Niro

Producer

Roger Deakins

Director Of Photography

Roger Deakins

Dp/Cinematographer

Robert Desjarlais

Electrician

Teri E. Dorman

Dialogue Editor

Antoine L. Douaihy

Location Manager

Roy Downey

Special Effects Assistant

Kitty Duffy

Production Assistant

Gary Duncan

Driver

R B Dunn

Stunts

James Earley

Grip

David Ellis

Unit Director

James Ellis

Script Supervisor

Richard Miller Ellis

Stunts

Bruce Ellison

Consultant

Elizabeth Feldbauer

Wardrobe Supervisor

Kate Ferraro

Assistant Set Dresser

Germaine Franco

Song

Dianna Freas

Set Decorator

Terrance E Fredericks

Stunts

Alex Friedman

Production Assistant

Robert Friedman

Foley Artist

John Fusco

Screenplay

John Fusco

Producer

Kimberly A Gallagher

Assistant

Jim Garrett

Extras Casting Assistant

Jeff Gomillion

Adr Mixer

Ron Goodman

Camera

Carolyn Greco

Assistant Costume Designer

Jessica A Green

Art Assistant

Kari M Grubin

Apprentice

Lee Grubin

Assistant Editor

Chris Hall

Stunts

Randy Hall

Stunts

Bj Hallett

Driver

Candy Hamilton

Consultant

Bruce Hamme

Dolly Grip

Andy Harris

Assistant Camera Operator

Barbara Harris

Voice Casting

Mark Harris

Other

Gene Hartline

Stunts

Jim Henrikson

Music Editor

Donna Hernandez

Craft Service

Manuel S Hernandez

Craft Service

Jonathan Herron

Camera Operator

Meredith Hight

Accounting Assistant

Wendell A Hill

On-Set Dresser

James Horner

Music

Craig Hosking

Helicopter Pilot

Jody Hummer

Extras Agent/Coordinator

Terry Johnson

Driver

Janet Kalas

Scenic Artist

Roger Kelderman

Other

Rick Kline

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Jeremy Knaster

Best Boy

Ron Kunecke

Other

Sonny Lemaire

Song

Beau Little Sky

Swing Gang

Joanie Livermont

Production Assistant

Neal Livermont

Production Assistant

Estelle Poxie Lone Hill

Extras Casting Assistant

Mel V Lone Hill

Driver

Billy Lucas

Stunts

Susan Lyall

Costume Designer

Dennis Maguire

Assistant Director

Dennis Maitland

Boom Operator

Elliot Marks

Photography

Cindy Marty

Dialogue Editor

Steve Mcauliff

Animal Trainer

Steve Mcauliff

Stunts

Michael A Mcfadden

Grip

Nicholas R. Miller

Construction Coordinator

Bill Moore

Electrician

William Moore

Electrician

Aimee Morris

Production Assistant

Jeanne Morton

Production Assistant

Pablo Mozo

Production Assistant

J Michael Muro

Steadicam Operator

Shawn Murphy

Other

H Jane Nauman

Assistant Location Manager

Mark J Nelson

Stunts

Chris Newman

Sound Mixer

Liz Newman

Assistant Production Coordinator

Julie Nickol

Camera Assistant

Randy Nolen

Steadicam Operator

Michael Nozik

Executive Producer

Hugh Aodh O'brien

Stunts

Kevin O'connell

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Billy O'leary

Lighting Technician

Jeff Okabayashi

Assistant Director

Ali Olmo

Song Performer

Ali Olmo

Song

John Orlebeck

Transportation Coordinator

Eric Osborn

Driver

J P Pennington

Song

Daniel Pershing

Dolly Grip

Tim Pershing

Key Grip

Matt Peterson

Sound Re-Recordist

Bernie Pock

Stunts

Ann Pollack

Assistant

Thomas R Poor Bear

Driver

Webster Poor Bear

Grip

Donald Pulford

Stunts

George W Pumpkin Seed

Driver

James Quinn

Other

Jeff Ramsey

Stunts

Sonny Richards

Advisor

Scott Rode

Driver

Daniel Rosenblum

Boom Operator

Jane Rosenthal

Producer

Joseph Sabella

Foley Artist

Harold Salway

Special Thanks To

John Sarviss

Helicopter Pilot

Steve Sass

Camera

Lori Schmidt

Driver

Barbara Schock

Assistant

Jackson Schwartz

Foley Mixer

Alexis Scott

Wardrobe

David Severin

Other

Michele Sharp

Sound Editor

Stan Siegel

Sound Editor

S Fox Sloan

Production Assistant

Daniel J Smiley

On-Set Dresser

Alvin Long Soldier

Swing Gang

Chris Soldo

Assistant Director

Bruce Springsteen

Song

Bruce Springsteen

Song Performer

Anna Stackpole

Assistant

John K. Stirber

Special Effects Coordinator

Nelle Stokes

Art Department Coordinator

Eric Swanek

Assistant Camera Operator

Les Taylor

Song

Paul A Taylor

Steadicam Operator

Jennifer Twiggs

Assistant Property Master

Franklin Vallette

Production Assistant

Webster Whinery

Stunt Coordinator

Alex White Plume

Special Thanks To

Percy White Plume

Grip

Mark Wiener

Animal Wrangler

Jason Boyd Wilcox

Security

Lloyd O Wilcox

Security

Bill Wolff

Driver

Don G Word

Driver

Grady Word

Driver

Joani Yarbrough

Hair Stylist

Leonard Yellow Elk

Driver

Film Details

Also Known As
Åskhjärta
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Drama
Thriller
Release Date
1992
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, USA; Rapid City, South Dakota, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Articles

Thunderheart


"The story was inspired on events that took place on Indian Reservations in the 1970s," reads the opening titles of Thunderheart (1992). On the surface, the film plays out as a classic mystery thriller dropped into the South Dakota Badlands and tangled up in the politics of the increasingly militant Indian Rights movement. Behind the fiction, however, is a very real history of conflict between Indian activists and the FBI, which culminated in the Wounded Knee siege of 1973 and the conviction of AIM member Leonard Peltier for the murder of two FBI agents (based on evidence that remains controversial to this day); all of that real history informs the fiction of this film.

Val Kilmer puts on the Raybans to play taciturn and loyal FBI agent Ray Levoi, whose Indian ancestry (Levoi's father was part Sioux) are all the qualifications the feds care about when they send him to investigate a murder on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The young, handsome Kilmer had attained the status of movie star the previous year playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991). While make-up adds just a hint of duskiness to his complexion, Kilmer's own ancestry includes Cherokee blood. Levoi, however, has spent his life denying his Indian blood and the assignment only rouses his resentments (one local dubs him the "Washington redskin"). It, of course, makes him a prime candidate for a spiritual reawakening, guided by dedicated tribal cop Walter Crow Horse (the dryly witty Graham Greene, who was previously an Academy Award® nominee for his supporting role in Dances with Wolves [1990]) and the tribal medicine man Grandpa Sam Reaches (Ted Thin Elk). As Ray digs into the murder case, he discovers the evidence doesn't support the FBI's theory, which has blamed the murder on the local leader of the militant Aboriginal Rights Movement, or ARM (a fictionalized version of the real-life American Indian Movement, aka AIM). More telling, Ray's new boss Frank "Cooch" Coutelle (Sam Shepard) doesn't even care, which sends Ray digging even deeper into a conspiracy that challenges his allegiance to the FBI ("the Federal Bureau of Intimidation," as Walter dubs them).

Screenwriter John Fusco spent years visiting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and drew the story from his experiences, fictionalizing the history but preserving the issues and conflicts. Michael Apted, a director with a solid career in both Hollywood (Coal Miner's Daughter [1980]) and documentary (7 Up and its sequels [1970-2005]) filmmaking, was well prepared to bring the script to the screen: He was finishing up the documentary Incident at Oglala (1992), which explored and exposed the events at Wounded Knee that inspired Fusco's script, when he was offered Thunderheart.

With the support of producers Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, Apted and Fusco used the fiction not only to expose the history but to make a provocative and political statement about the plight of the American Indian in modern America. "The Third World smack in the middle of America," comments Cooch as he drives his new junior partner through the dirt roads and ramshackle housing of the reservation. Sheila Tousey gives voice to the problems faced by the reservations Indians, including poverty, substandard schools and medical care and polluted water, as Maggie Eagle Bear, a Dartmouth-educated Sioux woman who returned to the reservation to fight for her people in the political arena. Actor/musician John Trudell, who was the National Chairman of the American Indian Movement during the era represented in Thunderheart, takes a more urgent and angry tack as wanted activist Jimmy Looks Twice (the film's stand-in for Leonard Peltier).

Just as alarming is the presence of the self-appointed Guardians of the Oglala Nation (or GOON, appropriately enough), an armed and oppressive militia that mans roadblocks and rides through the reservation dispensing their own justice with the support of the FBI. In the film the GOON squads take their marching orders from Jack Milton (Fred Ward), who controls the Tribal councils and the money coming in to the reservation and sees ARM as a challenge to his power. (The acronym is so evocative that it may surprise you that Apted and Fusco didn't fictionalize it.) With their terrorist tactics and campaign of intimidation (tacitly backed by the American government to suppress the growing activist movement), they make the reservation look less like a sovereign nation than an occupied country.

Apart from the opening scenes in Washington D.C. (where Ray drives around listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands," a wry anticipation of his next assignment), Thunderheart was shot on location at Badlands National Park, Wounded Knee and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the locations of the real life incidents of the seventies; all of this was done with the support of the Oglala Sioux people, who trusted Apted and Fusco to tell their story. Their trust was well founded. Apart from a few visions and suggestions of spiritual magic, Thunderheart dispenses with clichés of Indian culture while respectfully showing the traditions kept alive on the reservation and exposing conditions on the reservation, all within the conventions of an entertaining and involving Hollywood murder mystery with a message.

Producer: Robert De Niro, John Fusco, Jane Rosenthal
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: John Fusco
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Art Direction: Bill Ballou
Music: James Horner
Film Editing: Ian Crafford
Cast: Val Kilmer (Ray Levoi), Sam Shepard (Frank Coutelle), Graham Greene (Walter Crow Horse), Fred Ward (Jack Milton), Fred Dalton Thompson (William Dawes), Sheila Tousey (Maggie Eagle Bear), Chief Ted Thin Elk (Grandpa Sam Reaches), John Trudell (Jimmy Looks Twice), Julius Drum (Richard Yellow Hawk), Sarah Brave (Maisy Blue Legs).
C-119m. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Sean Axmaker
Thunderheart

Thunderheart

"The story was inspired on events that took place on Indian Reservations in the 1970s," reads the opening titles of Thunderheart (1992). On the surface, the film plays out as a classic mystery thriller dropped into the South Dakota Badlands and tangled up in the politics of the increasingly militant Indian Rights movement. Behind the fiction, however, is a very real history of conflict between Indian activists and the FBI, which culminated in the Wounded Knee siege of 1973 and the conviction of AIM member Leonard Peltier for the murder of two FBI agents (based on evidence that remains controversial to this day); all of that real history informs the fiction of this film. Val Kilmer puts on the Raybans to play taciturn and loyal FBI agent Ray Levoi, whose Indian ancestry (Levoi's father was part Sioux) are all the qualifications the feds care about when they send him to investigate a murder on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The young, handsome Kilmer had attained the status of movie star the previous year playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991). While make-up adds just a hint of duskiness to his complexion, Kilmer's own ancestry includes Cherokee blood. Levoi, however, has spent his life denying his Indian blood and the assignment only rouses his resentments (one local dubs him the "Washington redskin"). It, of course, makes him a prime candidate for a spiritual reawakening, guided by dedicated tribal cop Walter Crow Horse (the dryly witty Graham Greene, who was previously an Academy Award® nominee for his supporting role in Dances with Wolves [1990]) and the tribal medicine man Grandpa Sam Reaches (Ted Thin Elk). As Ray digs into the murder case, he discovers the evidence doesn't support the FBI's theory, which has blamed the murder on the local leader of the militant Aboriginal Rights Movement, or ARM (a fictionalized version of the real-life American Indian Movement, aka AIM). More telling, Ray's new boss Frank "Cooch" Coutelle (Sam Shepard) doesn't even care, which sends Ray digging even deeper into a conspiracy that challenges his allegiance to the FBI ("the Federal Bureau of Intimidation," as Walter dubs them). Screenwriter John Fusco spent years visiting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and drew the story from his experiences, fictionalizing the history but preserving the issues and conflicts. Michael Apted, a director with a solid career in both Hollywood (Coal Miner's Daughter [1980]) and documentary (7 Up and its sequels [1970-2005]) filmmaking, was well prepared to bring the script to the screen: He was finishing up the documentary Incident at Oglala (1992), which explored and exposed the events at Wounded Knee that inspired Fusco's script, when he was offered Thunderheart. With the support of producers Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, Apted and Fusco used the fiction not only to expose the history but to make a provocative and political statement about the plight of the American Indian in modern America. "The Third World smack in the middle of America," comments Cooch as he drives his new junior partner through the dirt roads and ramshackle housing of the reservation. Sheila Tousey gives voice to the problems faced by the reservations Indians, including poverty, substandard schools and medical care and polluted water, as Maggie Eagle Bear, a Dartmouth-educated Sioux woman who returned to the reservation to fight for her people in the political arena. Actor/musician John Trudell, who was the National Chairman of the American Indian Movement during the era represented in Thunderheart, takes a more urgent and angry tack as wanted activist Jimmy Looks Twice (the film's stand-in for Leonard Peltier). Just as alarming is the presence of the self-appointed Guardians of the Oglala Nation (or GOON, appropriately enough), an armed and oppressive militia that mans roadblocks and rides through the reservation dispensing their own justice with the support of the FBI. In the film the GOON squads take their marching orders from Jack Milton (Fred Ward), who controls the Tribal councils and the money coming in to the reservation and sees ARM as a challenge to his power. (The acronym is so evocative that it may surprise you that Apted and Fusco didn't fictionalize it.) With their terrorist tactics and campaign of intimidation (tacitly backed by the American government to suppress the growing activist movement), they make the reservation look less like a sovereign nation than an occupied country. Apart from the opening scenes in Washington D.C. (where Ray drives around listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands," a wry anticipation of his next assignment), Thunderheart was shot on location at Badlands National Park, Wounded Knee and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the locations of the real life incidents of the seventies; all of this was done with the support of the Oglala Sioux people, who trusted Apted and Fusco to tell their story. Their trust was well founded. Apart from a few visions and suggestions of spiritual magic, Thunderheart dispenses with clichés of Indian culture while respectfully showing the traditions kept alive on the reservation and exposing conditions on the reservation, all within the conventions of an entertaining and involving Hollywood murder mystery with a message. Producer: Robert De Niro, John Fusco, Jane Rosenthal Director: Michael Apted Screenplay: John Fusco Cinematography: Roger Deakins Art Direction: Bill Ballou Music: James Horner Film Editing: Ian Crafford Cast: Val Kilmer (Ray Levoi), Sam Shepard (Frank Coutelle), Graham Greene (Walter Crow Horse), Fred Ward (Jack Milton), Fred Dalton Thompson (William Dawes), Sheila Tousey (Maggie Eagle Bear), Chief Ted Thin Elk (Grandpa Sam Reaches), John Trudell (Jimmy Looks Twice), Julius Drum (Richard Yellow Hawk), Sarah Brave (Maisy Blue Legs). C-119m. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring April 3, 1992

Released in United States on Video October 14, 1992

Released in United States March 23, 1992

Shown at benefit premiere March 23, 1992 in New York City to aid South Dakota's Wounded Knee School and the Film at the Public series.

Completed shooting August 24, 1991.

Began shooting June 13, 1991.

Film noted: "To the memory of Chief Frank Fools Crow of the Oglala Nation."

Released in United States Spring April 3, 1992

Released in United States on Video October 14, 1992

Released in United States March 23, 1992 (Shown at benefit premiere March 23, 1992 in New York City to aid South Dakota's Wounded Knee School and the Film at the Public series.)