At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Martin Scorsese’s new film Killers of the Flower Moon caused quite a stir and a lot of Oscar buzz for its breakout star, Lily Gladstone. The indigenous actor has been performing for a long time and was actually close to moving onto other things when she was cast as Mollie Kyle, who is based on Osage tribe member Mollie Burkhart.
When the casting was announced, Gladstone wrote on Instagram, “I consider it a true gift and great responsibility to be trusted with Mollie Burkhart, and will hold her preciously with both arms, close to my heart. My most profound thanks to Osage Nation, it is a remarkable gift to be welcomed by you, and to be able to tell this story. Iiksukapi, niksokowaiks. The very best to you, my friends.”
Here’s everything to know about Gladstone, her connection to her starring role, and what she has planned for the future.
Who is Lily Gladstone?
Gladstone learned to speak Osage for the movie, but she is Siksikaitsitapi, also known as the Blackfoot Confederacy, and Nimíipuu, or Nez Perce, on her father’s side. She was born in 1986, and raised on the Blackfeet Nation reservation in Browning, Montana, until she was 11.
In 2008, she graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and a minor in Native American Studies. Live theater has been a big part of her artistic development, and after graduating, she worked with Living Voices until 2013, a theater company that tours shows using “historical perspectives based on real people and events.”
She also taught at Red Eagle Soaring, based in Seattle, a Native youth theatre program.
In August 2020, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that Gladstone was planning “to apply for seasonal work with the Department of Agriculture tracking murder hornets” just before she got added to the cast of Killers of the Flower Moon.
She told British Vogue of her interest, “I had, like, almost a parental love of bees at that time... [I got] a fire in my belly to go after these invasive killers that were attacking the indigenous species.”
Though she has traveled a lot for work, particularly to Los Angeles, Gladstone had a home in Montana in 2016 and seemed to imply she always would.
“I’m never going to fully leave Montana,” she told the Montanan. “I like being in a place where I can work with Native communities. And Missoula’s a really nice place to be grounded when you’re a working, traveling artist.”
What has Lily Gladstone said about her role in Killers of the Flower Moon?
Gladstone is a firm supporter of the SAG-AFTRA strike, which has made film promotion this year challenging. But in addition to the post she made upon casting, she wrote pre-strike about the feelings of gratitude she had towards the Osage Nation and the role she’d been given and her co-stars who played the rest of the “Kyle sisters.”
“So much love and gratitude to Osage Nation, to all the descendants of this not long ago history, to the community of GrayHorse that has raised so many wise, beautiful, graceful, funny, and unbelievably strong women,” she said in the caption. “What an honor it was to portray the Kyle sisters. What a ✨gift✨to do so with these INCREDIBLE actresses.”
And after the premiere at Cannes, she told Vanity Fair, “I’m very much in a state of being in the moment right now. But I feel so grateful. I just feel so grateful.”
She added more about her process of getting to know who the real Mollie was.
“I was most concerned with imbuing Mollie with my understanding of her through my lens and upbringing,” she said. “But also keeping the space open to really let Osage people direct who she was and how she would conduct herself.”
She added that her grandmother, also named Lily, was alive around the same era as Mollie, and they were both devout Catholics.
“When I was sharing stories about Grandma Lily with Osage friends, they would open up about stories of people they knew from that generation,” she explained. “There were a lot of things that were real similar.”
She also talked about the pressure of being on this big set, saying, “I always kept an eye on where in proximity to telling the story about Mollie Burkhart, how far away do I need to keep my own ego? Because there is this element of the pop and glamour of being in a film directed by Scorsese starring DiCaprio and De Niro.”
What else has Gladstone been in and what will she be in soon?
In 2013, she received her first film role on Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, and in 2016, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female for her role in Certain Women, which also starred Kristen Stewart. On TV, she’s appeared on Room 104, Billions, Tuca and Bertie, and Reservation Dogs. In July, she celebrated the release of her movie The Unknown Country.
Gladstone was recently cast as Cam Bentland for the new Hulu series Under the Bridge, based on a book of the same name by Rebecca Godfrey. The book is based on a true story about a 14-year-old named Reena Virk, who went missing after a party, and the case investigating her murder. Bentland is a police officer and one of the only women of color on the force taking part in the case.
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