Lily Gladstone Talks About Performance In 'Killers Of The Flower Moon' Ahead Of Oscars

Lily Gladstone's high school class voted her most likely to win an Oscar 20 years ago, and she might just do that this weekend. She's considered a front-runner in the Academy Awards, Best Actress category for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon.

Friday, March 8th 2024, 6:32 pm

Lily Gladstone's high school class voted her most likely to win an Oscar 20 years ago, and this weekend, she might do just that.

Gladstone is a frontrunner in the Academy Awards Best Actress category for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon.

She played Mollie Burkhart, a real-life Osage woman whose family was murdered for their oil money and land in the 1920s. The murders were part of a larger conspiracy against Osages known as the "Reign of Terror," which involved many people, including Mollie's husband Ernest.

Gladstone started preparing for a year before auditions even opened.

"I knew that casting was going to be coming up so I got a hold of the book the summer beforehand," she said. "I wanted to spend time shifting my mind and learning about the Reign of Terror for really what it was and what it did for Osage people and really what it did for all around Oklahoma, all around Indian Country."

Martin Scorsese said in an Apple TV interview he was struck by Gladstone's intelligence and her ability to tell a story using only her face and cast her for the role of Mollie Burkhart.

Gladstone said she worked closely with Osage tribal members to make sure she got the role right but said the greatest insight into the real story came from Mollie's family, specifically her granddaughter Margie Burkhart.

"Margie was one of the first people that I got to meet and met with Leo," said Gladstone. "Margie let it be known that Ernest and Mollie loved each other and that was the reality of what this marriage was. That was the reality of what this betrayal was. And they way that that sparked Marty to shift the entire narrative because suddenly he knew where the story was. You can know that, but then it's a huge leap of faith to know how to portray it."

Critics say Gladstone's portrayal “holds the soul of the film,” but she told News On 6's Tess Maune the opinion that mattered most was Margie's.

"There was an email forwarded to me after she'd seen the film. She's one of the first people to see it before the public did, and what she expressed, I think her words were: 'She felt a great weight had been lifted and that it looked like maybe how it was.' And I just was so grateful for that," Gladstone said. "After I saw it, I texted [Leo] and said, 'Oh my God. We did it. How did we do this?' It's almost impossible to wrap your mind around, and yet it was true."

After working as a professional actress for 16 years, at 37 years old, Gladstone shot to fame almost overnight. 

"It's just been this slow crescendo to some just very loud, but beautiful noise right now," she said.

The past few months have been a blur of red-carpet events and award shows, with Gladstone taking home a lot of hardware already, including a Golden Globe for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon, a win she shares with the Osage people.

"All of the victories that I've had along the way are not mine. They belong to the community," she said. "I think any of us, any indigenous person, we know that we exist in community, that we're a product of our community."

Gladstone grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana but feels a special connection to Oklahoma. She's spent a lot time in the state recently filming for the hit TV show Reservation Dogs, the not-yet-released movie Fancy Dance and her life-changing role of Mollie Burkhart in Killers of the Flower Moon.

"This kind of story, this kind of historical figure, this woman that's so real. To me it's important to not just cut and run with it," Gladstone said. "I just made too many amazing, close friendships. When I've got time off and nothing to do, I come back quite a bit. I love Tulsa." 

Now she's preparing for Hollywood's biggest night at the Academy Awards and her historic nomination for best actress, the first Native American to ever get a nod in that category.

It's a cultural shift, she said, that will have a lasting impact.

"This level of representation is felt by a lot of indigenous people," she said. "It's too much for one person, but it's certainly shared, and I'm certainly not going to be the last."


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