Gary Farmer

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.