AP Breakthrough Entertainer: Lily Gladstone’s Historic Journey

by Michael Nguyen
Native American Representation

Lily Gladstone, whose namesake is her great-grandmother, shares an intriguing connection with her character, Mollie Burkhart, in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Both women, born a decade apart in the late 19th century, were deeply rooted in tradition, cherished by their Native communities, and devout Catholics.

Gladstone’s upbringing straddled Seattle and the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, exposing her to the stories of previous generations of Native women. These tales spoke of their encounters with a rapidly modernizing America and the ruthless exploitation of tribal lands for resources.

The Osage murders of the early 20th century, a harrowing period where the Osage people were targeted for their oil-rich land rights, unfolded in Oklahoma, far from Gladstone’s Montana home. Nevertheless, as a narrative of the sinister exploitation of Native individuals, “Killers of the Flower Moon” resonated deeply with Gladstone’s heritage.

Lily Gladstone assumes the role of the anguished heart and compassionate conscience in the film, embodying not only Mollie but generations of Native experiences, from joy to pain. The prestigious recognition from The Big Big News as one of its five Breakthrough Entertainers of 2023 attests to her remarkable performance, skillfully delving into one of America’s darkest historical chapters.

In a recent interview, Gladstone acknowledged the weight of her family’s legacy and expressed her connection to the story: “Even though I’m not Osage, it did very much feel like it was in my blood.”

This standout performance catapulted the 37-year-old Gladstone, who initially garnered attention in Kelly Reichardt’s 2016 indie “Certain Women,” into the spotlight. Her Golden Globe nomination is just one of many accolades, and she stands on the verge of making history as the potential first Native American to win a competitive Oscar for Best Actress.

When asked about the significance of such an achievement, Gladstone’s response reflects her profound connection to her heritage. She envisions using the platform to speak her language and further connect with her roots, emphasizing that the moment would transcend her personal success.

Gladstone’s journey in the entertainment industry was marked by a dearth of Native role models on screen. She fondly recalls Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan in “Willow” as a character that vaguely represented Indigenous identity, humorously noting his long hair.

Originally aspiring to become a dancer, Gladstone drew inspiration from Maria Tallchief, America’s first major prima ballerina, who, like Mollie, hailed from Fairfax, Oklahoma. In an intriguing twist, the blankets she used in “Killers of the Flower Moon” were sourced from the Tallchief family, symbolizing the layers of women intertwined in her portrayal.

The film, adapted from David Grann’s book, initially focused on federal investigator Thomas Bruce White Sr., with Leonardo DiCaprio slated for the role. However, Scorsese and DiCaprio decided to shift the narrative away from a white savior perspective. They centered the film on Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), who married Mollie and plotted her demise to inherit her valuable land rights.

DiCaprio, impressed by Gladstone’s contribution, hailed her as the soul of the film and emphasized her pivotal role in guiding the storytelling from the Osage perspective.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” was a collaborative effort with the Osage community, and Gladstone often served as a crucial liaison. She has become an integral part of the Osage Nation’s community, participating in their traditional events and dinners.

While some Indigenous communities have voiced reservations about a $200 million Hollywood production delving into such a painful history, Gladstone views the Native collaboration as a historic moment in cinema. She appreciates the significance of revisiting the 1920s, a period when Hollywood perpetuated stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans, with a filmmaker deeply connected to the history of American cinema.

Throughout the film’s release, Gladstone has actively engaged in discussions generated by “Killers of the Flower Moon,” bridging the gap between Hollywood’s checkered past and a more promising future.

As she navigates this momentous period in her career, Gladstone remains grounded, savoring the experience as it unfolds. With a serene smile, she reflects, “It’s got its own pace, it’s got its own rhythm. It’s temporary. So like anything that’s temporary and fleeting, you just have to enjoy the moment.”

In these moments, Lily Gladstone epitomizes the essence of a Breakthrough Entertainer, making her mark not only in film but also in history.

For more on AP’s 2023 class of Breakthrough Entertainers, visit https://bigbignews.net/ap-breakthrough-entertainers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Native Representation

Q: Who is Lily Gladstone and what is her role in “Killers of the Flower Moon”?

A: Lily Gladstone is a 37-year-old actor known for her remarkable performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” She plays the character Mollie Burkhart in the film, embodying generations of Native American experiences.

Q: What is the significance of Lily Gladstone’s performance in the film?

A: Lily Gladstone’s performance has garnered critical acclaim and recognition, including a Golden Globe nomination. She is seen as the heart and conscience of the film, effectively delving into one of America’s darkest historical chapters.

Q: How has Lily Gladstone’s heritage influenced her connection to the film’s story?

A: Although Gladstone is not Osage herself, she feels a deep connection to the narrative, as it resonates with her family’s legacy and Native American experiences.

Q: What role did the Osage community play in the making of “Killers of the Flower Moon”?

A: The film had extensive collaboration with the Osage community, with Gladstone often serving as a bridge between the filmmakers and the community. The Osage Nation actively contributed to the film’s storytelling.

Q: What is the historical significance of revisiting the 1920s in “Killers of the Flower Moon”?

A: The film’s exploration of the 1920s, a period when Hollywood perpetuated stereotypes of Native Americans, is seen as a significant moment in cinema history, as it reexamines this era with a more authentic perspective.

Q: How does Lily Gladstone view her role as a Breakthrough Entertainer in the film industry?

A: Gladstone actively engages in discussions generated by the film, bridging the gap between Hollywood’s past and its more promising future. She views her role as an opportunity to make a positive impact on Native representation in the industry.

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FilmBuff55 December 26, 2023 - 9:05 am

wow, lily gladstone is goin places! shes breakin barriers in hollywood. that film sounds intense, gotta watch it.

Reader123 December 26, 2023 - 12:43 pm

lily gladstone’s performance in ‘killers of the flower moon’ is truely amazing! her connection to the story is so deep, its like she’s part of it. very interesting article.

HistoryGeek December 26, 2023 - 8:19 pm

it’s cool how theyre revisiting the 1920s in this movie. that was a crazy time in america. gladstone’s role is important for native representation, hope to see more of it.


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