All About ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Star Lily Gladstone

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One of the buzziest projects to come out of the Cannes Film Festival last year was Killers of the Flower Moon, which sees director Martin Scorsese joining forces with longtime collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. The movie spotlights the murders of dozens of Osage people in Oklahoma in the 1920s and Leo takes on the role of Ernest Burkhart, the husband of a Native American woman named Mollie Burkhart, who is played by Indigenous actor Lily Gladstone. And to say Lily and Leo have been making a splash as of late is a serious understatement. “I’m very much in a state of being in the moment right now,” Lily told Vanity Fair after the film’s May 20 premiere in Cannes. “But I feel so grateful. I just feel so grateful.”

Something tells us Lily’s star power is only going to continue to rise with Killers of the Flower Moon being as successful as it is, so here’s what you need to know about the actor so you and all your friends can collectively become their biggest stan.

lily gladstone

Mike Marsland//Getty Images

Lily grew up on the Blackfeet Nation reservation

Lily has she/they pronouns and per their Instagram page, Lily is of Siksikaitsitapi and NiMíiPuu heritage. According to an interview the actor had with Vulture, her father is Blackfeet and Nez Perce, while her mother is white. Lily grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana and lived there until she was 11.

“I lived in the reservations until I was 11, when we moved for lack of economic opportunities,” the actor mentioned during a profile with the Guardian. In her conversation with the outlet, the actor also noted that their mother—an early childhood education specialist—was the “bedrock of our family,” while her father was “one of the most brilliant men I know—a gentle giant. He has deep spirituality and sharp intelligence.”

lily gladstone

Lionel Hahn//Getty Images

As for how they felt growing up in Browning, Lily said during a 2014 interview the “reputation” of the town “depends on who it is you talk to…There are some incredibly ugly things that happen but shouldn’t. But you have to look deeper into why things are the way they are. At the foundation of my life, there is community and family. There is poverty, violence, substance abuse, and unemployment everywhere. But there is so much love in that community. What unites people there is a love of family, a love of land.”

They went to the University of Montana

Lily graduated in 2008 from the University of Montana’s honors college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an Acting focus and a minor in Native American Studies.

While at the university, they performed in Montana Repertory Theatre productions, where their teacher and director Greg Johnson said of them (per Town and Country), “There are a lot of talented kids at UM, but she’s always been a standout. She’s absolutely a transcendent actress. We were lucky to have her.”

Lily herself reflected on her experience attending the school and confessed to the Guardian that during her opening semester, her Theatre of the Oppressed instructor told her and the other students “none of you is going to be famous. You are here because you want to study theatre.”

But what the actor took to heart the most was the teacher’s advice that followed: “Keep yourself interested and invested in the world and you will stay an interesting performer. As soon as you disconnect from the human experience, you’ll be flat.” Their professor then added that “if any one of you does become famous, you can call me at four in the morning and laugh at me”—a truly lol-worthy statement in hindsight!

They’ve been in ~the biz~ for a while

Per Vulture, Lily’s first role was in Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian back in 2013. They went on to star opposite Kristen Stewart alongside *the* Laura Dern in Certain Women in 2016—a project that earned the actor a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female.

Lily has also had her fair share of screen time in the TV world, with appearances in tons of shows including Room 104, Billions, and Reservation Dogs.

Even so, it’s their highly-lauded role in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon—in which Lily stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and plays Mollie Kyle, a real-life Osage woman—that has been getting tons of critical acclaim as of late.

“It is my absolute honor to share this news that I am barely able to wrap my head around. I am beyond grateful to announce I will be joining the LEGENDARY cast of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film, Killers of the Flower Moon,” she wrote upon news of their casting.

“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 ❤️,” they added.

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The film—which is based on author David Grann’s book of the same name—premiered at Cannes in 2023 and instantly received rave reviews that specifically lauded Lily’s performance. “Lily has amazing presence and strength,” Leo (yes, that Leo) said of his co-star during a convo with the Hollywood Reporter back in May 2023. “She spent months studying Mollie Burkhart and her family, working extensively to understand the intricacies of this woman, her relationship with Ernest, and her legacy within the Osage community. As a Native actor, in a lot of ways, she became a source of guidance for all of us, Scorsese included, in terms of how we told the story.”

During a separate chat with British Vogue, Leo commented on how Lily wound up securing her role in Killers of the Flower Moon, noting how there was a “truthfulness in [her] eyes that [director Martin Scorsese] saw even over a computer screen.”

“I’ve never known [Scorsese to] meet somebody and then immediately afterward have this gravitational pull and instinct to say, ‘Let’s not wait another minute [to cast her],’” he added. Full! Body! Chills!

Luckily for us, Lily isn’t slowing down any time soon. Last spring, she was in Vancouver shooting Under the Bridge, a new Hulu true crime show that’s based on the book of the same name by Rebecca Godfrey.

Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge

Per the streamer, the limited series is said to be about “the 1997 true story of 14-year-old Reena Virk who went to join friends at a party and never returned home. [Rebecca] Godfrey takes us into the hidden world of the seven teenage girls and a boy accused of the savage murder, revealing startling truths about the unlikely killer.”

They could make history at the 2024 Oscars

Lily has already nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, so it’s *beyond* likely that she’ll also get an Oscar nod. And!!!! Should that happen, she’d make history as the first Native American to win a competitive Oscar. Casual!

They are passionate about Native Americans and their representation in media

Lily chooses their roles thoughtfully to ensure they work in tandem with their efforts to raise awareness about their culture. Case in point? The actor opened up to Vulture about the fact that they were initially hesitant about accepting their role in Killers of the Flower Moon, as the story it tells chronicles a dark and gruesome page in Osage history. After the project underwent a script rewrite, the plot changed from one that focused on a white-savior trope into one that centers on the experiences of its Indigenous characters; something Lily could now get behind. Scorsese himself sought out and welcomed input from the Osage community, which, in turn, changed Lily’s mind re: taking on the role.

“It was clear that I wasn’t just going to be given space to collaborate. I was expected to bring a lot to the table,” Lily said to Vulture before adding, “That’s what being equitable is—not just opening the door. It’s pulling a seat out next to you at the table.”

In the past, Lily has also worked with Red Eagle Soaring, a Native American youth theatre program that’s based in Seattle. Per Town and Country, the actor said of her efforts that “role modeling is part of being a young Native person…Youth recognize someone with vision and a good heart, and I want to teach youth that they are role models for the generation beneath them.”

And when it comes to repping their culture on the global stage? Lily is all about it. No matter which red carpet they grace, Lily always makes sure to wear Native jewelry and garments that shine a spotlight on the talented designers who created them. I mean, just look at some of their Cannes Film Festival looks from last May:

lily gladstone

Vittorio Zunino Celotto//Getty Images

lily gladstone

Gareth Cattermole//Getty Images

WATCH ‘KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON’ HERE

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Gretty Garcia is the assistant news editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers all things news, entertainment, and pop culture. Before joining Cosmo, Gretty was a social strategist for Mrs. Dow Jones and a features and special projects editor at Editorialist. She holds an MS from the Columbia Journalism School and studied art history at Harvard College. 

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