Lily Gladstone: My Oscar nomination is ‘in the service of the future generations’

Lily Gladstone: My Oscar Nomination Is ‘In The Service Of The Future Generations’
Lily Gladstone
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By Jessica Rawnsley and Prudence Wade, PA

Representation of Native American people in Killers Of The Flower Moon is a far cry from traditional western films.

Lily Gladstone, who stars in Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller, said westerns from the 1940s onwards “relegated us to either the bloodthirsty or the noble savage – the key word being savage”.


These were the types of films her grandmother watched. “Her biggest hobby was popping in a VHS and highlighting the schedule for the channels for which film she wanted. She had floor to ceiling, thousands of titles by the end of her life of movies she recorded, because she loved movies,” Gladstone told the PA news agency.

Lily Gladstone
Gladstone is the first Native American to be nominated for the best actress Oscar (Alamy/PA)

“And she grew up watching these films where there were no native leading ladies in these roles.”


Gladstone, 37, from Montana’s Blackfeet reservation, stars as Mollie Burkhart in Killers Of The Flower Moon, which depicts the mysterious murders of wealthy members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s. Leonardo DiCaprio plays her scheming husband Ernest Burkhart, based on David Grann’s non-fiction book of the same name.

Now, Gladstone is the first Native American to be nominated for an Academy Award in the best actress category – something she said is an “incredible honour”, but also “so overdue”.

“It’s the 96th Annual Academy Awards, it’s 96 years of there just not being recognition of Native American leading ladies. Some of the first films that were shot were made by Native Americans, shooting ourselves, documenting some of our dances and putting them into film.

“Those early images of the first moving pictures were made by us for everyone – but made by us, of who we were and who we are.”


Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in Killers Of The Flower Moon
Leonardo DiCaprio plays her husband in the film (Apple Original Films. All Rights Reserved/PA)

So Gladstone’s nomination is something of a full circle moment, and follows her win as the first indigenous woman to take home the best actress award at the Golden Globes.

“It feels like it’s in the service of the future generations, and hopefully a moment of restitution for our elders seeing themselves represented in this way,” she said.


“Even though Killers Of The Flower Moon has Marty’s name on it – Martin Scorsese – [and] has Eric Roth’s name on the screenplay, there is so much about the story in this film that was shaped by Osage experience, by Osage voices,” Gladstone noted.

“There are literal chunks of the script that are coming directly from Osage people, whether it be input that was put in the script that changed a scene, or in-the-moment improvisation that also shaped the centre of the film.”

She also feels positive about the trajectory of indigenous representation, particularly picking out Sterlin Harjo’s recently wrapped TV series Reservation Dogs.

Lily Gladstone in Killers Of The Flower Moon
Gladstone says her community is her ‘driving force’ (Apple Original Films. All Rights Reserved/PA)

“There are so many creatives that have their own stories, that have had their own successes, that people are hungry to see. It’s a really exciting time, and it’s really cool to see this wave.

“People are seeing there’s been a space for it all along and audiences from all walks of life are so excited to receive it.”

And Gladstone notes that her community has always been her driving force. Before breaking through to the global stage, her acting work was “dedicated to using theatre for social change”.

She focused on “using acting as a method to work with indigenous youth and finding their authentic, artistic voice to express themselves.

“Their voices matter, and our Native youth are a very vulnerable population. Partly because of how we’re depicted in the media, a sense of self can be very damaged when you’re seeing these mascots around you that are caricatures of what people think you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to look like.

“Hearing these incredibly offensive war whooping chants [from] a whole stadium full of people, that feels like continued mockery.

“That’s my driving force as far as what arts can do for sense of self. “

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