Shining Elk Sundance success
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – American Indian actor Patrick Shining Elk has demonstrated notable success with his two recent appearances at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
In his two premiere appearances, Shining Elk’s characters include Gary, one of “The Mission Boyz” in the film “La Mission,” directed and written by Peter Bratt and Martin Two-Spirit in Kevin Willmott’s film “The Only Good Indian.”
“La Mission” takes place in San Francisco’s Mission District, an area highly populated with Hispanics. The main character of the film, Che, played by Benjamin Bratt is a patriarch of the community who is also an ex-convict and recovering alcoholic. Che discovers his son is gay and reacts with violence.
Shining Elk plays one of the “Mission Boyz,” a group of Che’s close friends that salvage junked cars and transform them into low rider classics.
“The Only Good Indian” stars Wes Studi of “Last of the Mohicans” who plays a 1900s Cherokee bounty hunter hired to capture an escaped student from the Haskell Indian Boarding School. In the film, Shining Elk portrays Martin Two Spirit a patient in an Indian insane asylum.
In addition to his roles in the two recent films, Shining Elk has starred and co-starred in more than 20 films including the “Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. He has also made numerous appearances on television and theater and works as an expert horseman and stuntman.
However, perhaps most impressive of all, Shining Elk is a speaker and advocate against the dangers of meth addiction in Native communities. Though Shining Elk now basks in the success of his accomplishments, he admits the road to his success was not always an easy one.
After a decent childhood, Shining Elk fell into addiction.
Born and raised in Upton, Wyo. Shining Elk learned a strong work ethic from his father, an 18 hour-a-day truck driver on a drilling rig. Patrick’s first job was as a window washer at the local drive-in theater when he was five.
“It was actually easy growing up. My brother was a big guy, so no one messed with me. I was living the good life,” said Shining Elk. In Upton, he also spent many hours working with his father on his truck route. In his off times, he enjoyed riding horses.
His experience with horses landed him a job on the movie, “Wind River.” “I got a job bareback riding, out in Wyoming it was hard for the filmmakers to find anyone to ride bareback. I ended up getting a role in the movie.”
From that point, Shining Elk continued to work in the film industry. He did extensive work as a stuntman and as an actor. He worked on such productions as “Touched by an Angel,” and for TV commercials.
Shining Elk was living what many would call the “American Dream” when his success took a disastrous turn. He became addicted to methamphetamines.
“I was living in a beautiful house, with horses and horse trailers. I was spending thousands of dollars on my meth addiction and in one year, I was living under a bridge. I was homeless for awhile.”
Shining Elk realized he was addicted and got help. He completely turned his life around and became an advocate against the effects of meth. He began to speak at schools to help children take control of their lives.
“When I speak at schools, my message is not just, ‘don’t do it.’ I say, ‘I’m lucky I was this person, and I was able to survive, you don’t have to go through this.’ I also remember a time when I was speaking at a school, a young girl raised her hand when I was speaking and I stopped the speech to hear her. She said, ‘I’m 12 years old, and I am addicted to meth. I am a prostitute to support my habit.’”
Shining Elk made her a promise to get her some help.
Though Shining Elk is successful again, with four years clean and sober, he admits the worst of his troubles are a broken shoulder he is nursing from a recent stunt injury. “I mostly want to thank Michelle Shining Elk (former wife, current manager and still close friend) and Rob Rondeaux who helped me from the beginning.”
Shining Elk said he wants to continue giving back to a community that needs inspiration, which he hopes he can continue to provide.