Killers of the Flower Moon: A Significant Moment for All, Says Lily Gladstone

Killers of the Flower Moon: A Significant Moment for All, Says Lily Gladstone: In the wake of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Lily Gladstone has garnered acclaim from directors Spike Lee and Terrence Malick, received Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award nominations, and is considered a frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. She’s also caught the attention of one of her favorite filmmakers for a potential project, experiencing a noticeable shift in public recognition.

Lily Gladstone, 37, reflects on the uncomfortable feeling of excess attention, expressing gratitude for the remarkable good fortune she has experienced since the release of “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Lily Gladstone, raised between Seattle and the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, applies the martial arts philosophy of “redirecting energy.” On the day “Killers of the Flower Moon” was released, she joined fellow Screen Actors Guild members in picketing the film’s distributor’s New York headquarters. After the strike lifted, she used social media to share resources for Native American women and young people impacted by the movie’s intense subject matter.

“My strengths as an actor are nurtured by community, so it’s just natural that if it’s going to do any good, it’s going to do good for the community,” says Lily Gladstone. “There’s a lot of communities that I hold: being a union member, being Native, being a Native woman. It’s a moment for all of us that I just happen to be carrying.”

More than 200 tribes were represented on the ‘Flower Moon’ movie set.

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction book, “Flower Moon,” the film recounts the horrific serial murders of the oil-rich Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma. The story centers on a Native American woman, Mollie Kyle (played by Lily Gladstone), who falls in love with and marries a white man named Ernest Burkhart (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). For Gladstone, it was crucial not to depict Mollie as a victim but rather as the “tremendous survivor” she truly was.

“I wanted to approach Mollie the way I would expect someone to approach playing my great-grandma Lily, with the same carefulness and love,” Gladstone says. In the front of her script, she kept a photo of Mollie taken years after the atrocities: “After what she’s been through, she’s just sitting there with this peaceful, self-possessed smile. That was always my end point, like: ‘OK, I’m going to go through a lot making this; it’s going to be really hard. But just remember that last photo where she survived it.’ ”

Gladstone found other ways to cope on set. Although she’s right-handed, she made Mollie left-handed to create “physical space” between the character and “my everyday life.” More than 200 tribes were represented in the cast and crew, which also became a “kind of therapy.” “You get that many Natives together, and everybody’s just happy to be together,” Gladstone says. “For my own self-care, being in community (helped with) the trauma of carrying this story.”

‘Star Wars’ spurred Lily Gladstone’s desire to act

Ever since Lily Gladstone’s breakthrough performance in 2016’s “Certain Women,” film critics have consistently praised her for the captivating portrayal of quiet power and stillness on screen. Gladstone herself attributes these distinctive qualities to her background in dance. She initiated her acting journey at a children’s theater in Montana, taking on the role of a merchant in a play by Hans Christian Andersen. Reflecting on those early days, Gladstone recalls the amusing juxtaposition of Blackfeet children portraying Dutch characters, expressing a lighthearted attitude toward the unconventional casting choices. She embraces the idea of more diverse and unconventional representation in the world of theater.

She developed a passion for acting after being inspired by “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” Intrigued by the idea of portraying one of the courageous and furry Ewoks engaged in the battle to protect their home planet, Endor, she found herself contemplating how she could also become a part of such a captivating narrative.

“They brought a smile to my face, and I aspired to be one,” Gladstone says, grinning. “It took me quite some time to realize that perhaps my attraction to them was rooted in their embodiment of the ultimate story of Indigenous resistance. One could argue that they are the ones who played a role in bringing down the Empire.”

Mollie Kyle will forever remain an integral part of who I am.

Should Gladstone have the opportunity for a “Star Wars” meeting, she already envisions delving into a character: a bounty hunter present at the Battle of Endor who undergoes a change of allegiance, joining the Rebel Alliance. Meanwhile, she is currently linked to star in an upcoming biopic centered around Mildred Bailey, a jazz legend from the Coeur d’Alene community.

Despite the accolades pouring in for “Flower Moon,” she continues to make frequent trips back to Oklahoma, the film’s shooting location. Additionally, she showcases support for local designers by donning their creations on red carpets and during photo shoots. “She looks after people in our community,” says Chad Renfro, an Osage ambassador to the movie. “They feel like she’s a part of our community now.”

For her, being embraced by the Osage “means everything. Their opinion is the one that matters most ‒ maybe the only one that really does matter to me,” Gladstone says. “I feel like Mollie reached through time and grabbed me for this. I was offered the role on her birthday; every time I see her grandson, he calls me ‘Grandma.’ Because so many people signed off on me playing this role, it feels like this ongoing accountability to stay true to these significant relationships that have been formed. “I have a home in Osage County. Mollie’s always going to be a part of me, and I owe it to them to always show up and be part of them, too.”

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