“We had the premiere – the Central Park Premiere – (and) it was the world’s largest premiere ever in the history of filmmaking at the time.” Irene Bedard on the Pocahontas Premiere
An American actress/singer of Inupiat Eskimo and Métis origin, Irene Bedard is widely recognized for portraying Native American characters in various movies and for providing emotional charisma to her characters. After an auspicious acting debut in the made-for-TV film Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994), from which she earned a Golden Globe nomination and jointly won the Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler, she was launched to stardom as the voice of the title character in the Disney blockbuster animated movie Pocahontas (1995). She shared two Western Heritage’s Bronze Wrangler honors for her work in the television film Two for Texas (1998) and the acclaimed miniseries “Into the West” (2005), in which she also took home a NAMIC Vision Award for her role as biracial Margaret “Light Shines” Wheeler, and picked up a American Indian LA Film and TV Award after starring as Abbey in the comedy/drama film Greasewood Flat (2003).
Bedard also played Pocahontas’ mother in Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005) and Liberata in Tortilla Heaven (2007). She will star with Jonathan Sachar in the forthcoming drama Cosmic Radio (2007).
The petite actress (she stands 5’ 0½”) was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1995. She has been married to Denny Wilson since 1993 and they have a young son. The two are both now in a band called Irene Bedard and Deni, where Irene serves as vocalist and Deni as guitarist and writer. The band released a music CD called Warrior of Love in 2003.
Childhood and Family:
In Anchorage, Alaska, Irene Bedard was born on July 22, 1967. She is the daughter of an Inupiat Eskimo and a French Canadian/Cree. In 1993, she married musician Denny Wilson, who is an Irish American from Buffalo, NY. They are the parents of a four-year-old son.
Irene’s nickname is Peanut. She has an Eskimo name, Goodiarook, which means “someone who dropped.”
Growing up in the suburbs of Anchorage, Alaska, Irene Bedard was active in theater and co-founded the Chuka Lokali theater ensemble in New York City. She stepped in front of the camera for a supporting role in the TNT great drama Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994), portraying Mary Crow Dog, a woman whose devout development is associated with the brutal events of a blockade at the Wounded Knee Reservation in South Dakota in 1993. Her performance won positive reviews and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, as well as shared a 1995 Bronze Wrangler for Television Feature Film from the Western Heritage. Shortly thereafter, she made her motion picture debut with Disney’s live-action adventure, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale (1994), as Nakooma, opposite Adam Beach as Squanto and Sheldon Peters Wolfchild as Mooshawset.
After a guest spot in “The Marshall” (1995), Bedard experienced a huge breakthrough when she was handed the voice turn of Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney animated film of the same name, where she also became the physical model for the character. The movie was a big hit and so was Bedard. Next, she starred as Reyna in the based-on-book TV film Grand Avenue (1996) and Black Buffalo Woman in director John Irvin’s Crazy Horse (1996) before returning to the wide screen. She starred with Steven Bauer in the Native American movie Navajo Blues (1996), acted with David Strathairn in the Canadian-produced Song of Hiawatha (1997), played the character Babe in the drama 12 Bucks (1998), teamed up with Valerie Red-Horse and Yvonne Russo to play three Native American sisters in Naturally Native (1998), had a feature role in Smoke Signals (1998) and appeared with Clea DuVall, Daryl Hannah and Eric Roberts in the indie-drama Wildflowers (1999). Meanwhile, in 1999, she picked up her next Bronze Wrangler for her work in the1998 made-for-TV film Two for Texas, shared with partners Dennis Bishop (producer), Rod Hardy (director), Larry Brothers (writer) and Peter Coyote (actor).
Bedard joined Giovanni Ribisi for director-writer Lightfield Lewis’ Pussykat (2000), played Grace in The Lost Child (2000, TV), provided the voice of General Miriam Redwing in episodes of “Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles,” a gig she had from 1999 to 2001, shared the screen with Chad Lowe in the comedy/romance Your Guardian (2001), and appeared in episodes of “House of Mouse,” “The Outer Limits” and “The Agency” (all 2001). In 2003, she could be found in three projects, but was most remarkable starring as Abbey in a comedy/drama by director/writer Susan K. Brigham, Greasewood Flat. The role brought her a 2004 American Indian LA Film and TV for Best Lead Actress in a Feature Film.
In 2005, the award-winning performer continued to score success by nabbing the Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler for Outstanding Television Feature Film, shared with Steven Spielberg (producer), Skeet Ulrich (actor) and Rachael Leigh Cook (actor), among others, and a NAMIC Vision for Best Dramatic Performance in the highly-profile miniseries “Into the West.” There she played the half-Lakota, half-white adult Margaret “Light Shines” Wheeler. The same year, she also had roles in such films as Planting Melvin, Miracle at Sage Creek, Love’s Long Journey (TV) and the Colin Farrell vehicle The New World (2005), as Pocahontas’ Mother.
Recently appearing as Liberata in the independent film Tortilla Heaven (2007), starring José Zúñiga, Miguel Sandoval and Olivia Hussey, Bedard is scheduled to costar as K.C. in the Stephen Savage-helmed drama Cosmic Radio (2007). Among her costars in the film are Jonathan Sachar, Rider Strong and Michael Madsen.
- NAMIC Vision: Best Dramatic Performance, “Into the West,” 2006
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Outstanding Television Feature Film, "Into the West,” 2006
- American Indian LA Film and TV: Best Lead Actress in a Feature Film, Greasewood Flat, 2004
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, Two for Texas, 1999
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee, 1995