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Search for actor to portray Jim Thorpe underway

Jim Thorpe was a talented multisport athlete. (Courtesy Pictureworks Entertainment)

The producers of a new feature film about Jim Thorpe’s life have launched an online casting call to find a Native American actor to portray him when he was in his 20s.

Pictureworks Entertainment is developing the movie – “Thorpe” – which was previously called “Bright Path Strong.” The film’s director is Tracey Deer (Mohawk). William Collage (“Emancipation”) wrote the script based on the book “Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete” by Robert Wheeler.

The filmmakers said in a Nov. 30 news release that it would be the first time Thorpe (Sac and Fox Tribe) will be portrayed by a Native American actor in a major motion picture.

Thorpe, who died in 1953 at age 64, is a legendary athlete – the first Native American to win a gold medal in an Olympics. He won two – in the decathlon and pentathlon – in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. On July 15, 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reinstated Thorpe as the sole champion in his events – after first being stripped of his medals and later being named a co-champion. It was vindication for Thorpe’s family and scores of supporters across Indian Country who advocated for the reinstatement for decades.

The filmmakers said the movie would focus on Thorpe’s athletic feats, but also his time at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School, which became a model for government and church-run Native American boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries. The school’s motto “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” caused the isolation of Native children from their families and tribal communities, and systematically stripped them of their languages, customs, medicines, religious beliefs, regalia, and even their own names – to assimilate them into mainstream society.

Collage’s script tells the story of Thorpe’s resilience through those experiences as he ascends to college football dominance and ultimately Olympic glory.

“The challenge with this project has always been deciding which part of Jim’s story to focus the movie on,” producer Chris Taylor (Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana), said in the release. “Previous versions of the script portrayed an older Jim, but what’s so exciting about Collage’s script is how youthful it is. We are very much looking forward to finding the right young Native man to step into Jim’s giant shoes. We invite every tribe in the U.S. and Canada to encourage their young people to audition.”

Native American men from 22 to 25 years old are invited to sign up online for an audition at A release date for the film has not been announced.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at