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Historically significant biopics have become the bread and butter of Hollywood’s award season. Although the industry has covered numerous Americans across many distinct eras, one particular facet of American history and culture has yet to be properly zeroed in on for this particular genre: Native Americans. That all seems poised to change with an upcoming biopic for legendary Native American figure Sitting Bull. The project is still very early in its development, but has Jessica Chastain currently circling a lead role; don’t worry, it’s not Sitting Bull.
A new report from THR indicates that Chastain is currently in talks to portray real life historical figure Caroline Weldon in the upcoming Sitting Bull biopic Woman Walks Ahead. A New Yorker who settled the Dakota Territory during the 19th century, Weldon became a close friend and confidant of the iconic Native American leader. During this period she became a champion for Sitting Bull and the Sioux tribe to keep their land, and eventually joined them with her son for a number of years. Her story is one of persistence and determination, as her associating with Sitting Bull and his people turned her into a pariah. The American media of the day even went so far as to publicly label Weldon "Sitting Bull’s white squaw," for her association with the – then vilified – tribe.
Jessica Chastain has kept busy in recent years, never falling too comfortably into one particular genre. Although she received her first major mainstream recognition for roles in films like The Help and Guillermo del Toro’s Mama, she has also recently taken on roles in films ranging from Zero Dark Thirty to The Martian and Crimson Peak. Whether or not she actually commits to a starring role in Woman Walks Ahead remains to be seen, as the film itself is still quite a way off; to our knowledge a lead actor to portray Sitting Bull has not even been reported yet.
Woman Walks Ahead represents the latest in a long line of Hollywood projects that place emphasis on the experience of Native Americans during the time of westward expansion. Although often portrayed as offensive caricatures devoid of real motivations, Native cultures have become a topic of great care within Hollywood films. In many cases association with such cultures has been linked to a deeper, more spiritual connection with the earth itself – such as in films like The Last of the Mohicans and The Revenant. The topic has even been broached on an allegorical level in box office giants like Avatar, but still very few (if any) biopics.
We will bring you more information related to Woman Walks Ahead – as well as Chastain’s potential involvement in the project – as it becomes available.