Rising star climbs mountains in Hollywood Adam Beach co-stars in ‘Flags of our Fathers’

Sarah Moses
10/25/06

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Born on the Dog Creek Indian Reserve in Canada, actor Adam Beach has climbed many mountains during his lifetime – but none has changed his life as much as climbing the mountains of Iwo Jima.

Beach co-stars in the Clint Eastwood film “Flags of our Fathers,” which opened nationwide Oct. 20. He plays the role of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian who served in the U.S. Marines during World War II and was captured in the famous flag-raising photograph on the island of Iwo Jima by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. Advance screenings of “Flags” have targeted Beach as a rising star by several media outlets.

“This will be the best movie that I will ever do and that I’ll ever be apart of,” Beach, 33, said. “It was everything. It’s the story; it’s the honest portrayal of these young men. It’s the message; it’s Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg; it’s the whole package, and now I felt that I’ve completed a journey.”

Beach, of Saulteaux decent, attended a special advance screening of the movie on Oct 18 in Scottsdale. Five hundred audience members, the majority American Indian, laughed and cried as they watched the story of Hayes’ life and death unfold on the screen.

Hayes was born on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Sacaton and after years of battling alcoholism, he died at the age of 32.

“People are going to see a different side of Ira; a side that they’ve never seen before,” Beach said. “It’s so uplifting.”

United National Indian Tribal Youth was a sponsor of the event that welcomed several tribal leaders from Arizona and across Indian country to be among the first to see the film. Among the honored guest was the family of Ira Hayes.

“He [Beach] did an excellent job,” said Yvonne Flores, Hayes’ cousin. “We are all pleased with it. The movie portrayed the truth of what happened, so we are all very pleased.”

After the film, UNITY and Beach presented Hayes’ brother, Kenneth Hayes, and niece, Sara Bernal, with a blanket to honor them.

Beach said during the filming of the movie he couldn’t help but to reflect on his own life.

“I have a past of pain and anguish,” he said. “Losing my parents when I was a kid and when we were shooting this movie, I lost my grandmother in the middle of filming.” Beach said he became aware of his grandmother’s passing by a phone call and the pain he experienced was heart-wrenching.

“Ira must have been in a horrific position of having his friends die right in front of him,” Beach said. “I just got a phone call and I felt pain so deep, and here he had to watch his friends die in front of him.”

“Flags of our Fathers” is based on the book of the same title by author James Bradley, the son of John “Doc” Bradley, one of the other five flag-raisers. From the research James Bradley did in his 2000 book, Beach said people are going to see a truthful and honest portrayal of Ira Hayes.

“I think that is all he wanted – for people to know the truth,” Beach said. “They definitely didn’t know what happened behind this picture and now they get to see it.”

After his portrayal of Hayes, Beach said he has completed a journey in his career and in his life.

“People always ask me about the acting,” Beach said, who has held minor television roles since 1990 and starred in such movies as “Smoke Signals” and “Windtalkers.”

“Now I feel I have made it to the top of a mountain and I can see that I still have a lot of mountains in my future,” he said. “But now I get to choose what mountain I want to climb, and that’s a powerful thing.”

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