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Lily Gladstone Biography, Career, Movies, Awards, Personal Life

Lily Gladstone is a Blackfeet and Nimipuu American actor. She is well recognized for her role as an Osage woman living on an Oklahoma reservation amid a string of killings in the 1920s in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon.

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Gladstone’s performance has been regarded as her “mainstream breakthrough role.” Gladstone had previously starred in a number of independent films and television shows, including Reservation Dogs. She received great acclaim for her role in Certain Women in 2016, which won her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female, among other honors.

Early Life

Lily Gladstone was born on August 2, 1986, in Browning, Montana, and raised there. Her father, a broadcast journalist, is Blackfeet and Nimipuu, while her mother, an early childhood education specialist, is white. Gladstone grew up on the Blackfeet Nation reserve until she was 11 years old. Her family lived in a log cabin with a wood-burning stove during the first few years of her existence.

In describing Browning, Gladstone said: “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.”

Gladstone described herself as “an energetic and performative kid who got made fun of a lot—just that chubby mixed girl on the rez who had a little bit too much creative energy and not enough outlets.” Her father and grandfather were avid movie fans, and she grew up watching a lot of movies on cable television that they had recorded.

She graduated high school in a Seattle suburb after her family relocated away from Browning owing to a lack of economic possibilities, and subsequently attended the University of Montana. She majored in acting and theater and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a minor in Native American studies in 2008. She appeared in Montana Repertory Theatre performances while in college, and her teacher and director, Greg Johnson, said of her, “There are a lot of talented kids at UM, but she’s always been a standout.” She is a very transcendent actor. We were fortunate to have her.”

Gladstone said she took one bit of advise from UM to heart: “Keep yourself interested and invested in the world, and you will remain an interesting performer.” You’ll be flat as soon as you disengage from the human experience.”

Theater Work and Movies

Gladstone worked with Living Voices, an educational touring theater company that presents works about neglected histories, from 2009 to 2013. In Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (2012), she made her cinematic debut as a Blackfeet World War II veteran played by Benicio Del Toro.

Winter in the Blood (2013), a dreamlike film about a Native American man in a small Montana community, was her next appearance. Gladstone described it as a “labor of love” for Montana residents, saying, “Winter in the Blood relied so heavily on the Montana community, so many locals, and so many people who have a strong connection with the legacy of the novel.” She also appears in the 2016 film Buster’s Mal Heart.

Gladstone received particular attention for her performance as a rancher in Certain Women (2016), directed by Kelly Reichardt. The Guardian called it her “big break,” while Rolling Stone said, “Gladstone gives a performance of such piercing honesty and yearning, you almost can’t look at her.” She co-starred with Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, and Kristen Stewart.

The emerging star went on to receive more honors and nominations. This included being named Best Supporting Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Boston Society of Film Critics. Gladstone was also nominated for Best Supporting Female in the Independent Spirit Awards.

Gladstone was onstage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2017 and collaborated with the Red Eagle Soaring Native American student theater group. She appeared on HBO’s Room 104 (2017-2020), Showtime’s Billions (2019-2023), and FX’s Reservation Dogs (2022), and worked with Kelly Reichardt again in the independent film First Cow (2019). In 2020, she will also appear in a Yale Repertory Theatre production of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Manahatta.

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Creator: Melinda Sue Gordon | Credit: Courtesy of Apple

Gladstone began to doubt her ability to sustain herself through acting in August 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pondered a career change, planned to apply for seasonal work with the US Department of Agriculture tracking murder hornets. During this period, she did, however, receive a Zoom meeting request from filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who was intrigued with her performance in Certain Women. This led to her casting in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which opens in theaters on October 6, 2023.

Killers of the Flower Moon is based on David Grann’s nonfiction book of the same name and describes a sequence of murders on the Osage Nation Reservation in Oklahoma during the 1920s. Mollie Kyle Burkhart, played by Gladstone, is based on a real Osage woman whose friends and family members are suddenly murdered. Gladstone studied Burkhart for months, even visiting with her real-life granddaughter, and attended dozens of meetings with Osage elders to understand the community’s legacy and ensure their voice was heard and adopted.

Gladstone claimed she took inspiration for the performance from her own life and upbringing, despite the fact that she and Burkhart were from different tribes and historical periods. “I consider it a true gift and a great responsibility to have been entrusted with Mollie Burkhart, and I will hold her preciously with both arms, close to my heart,” Gladstone said of the casting. “My heartfelt gratitude to the Osage Nation; it is a remarkable gift to be welcomed and to be able to tell this story.”

Scorsese said of Gladstone: “I could see that she trusted in simplicity. She understood her own onscreen presence as an expressive instrument that could speak for itself. That’s quite rare. Her silences, as Mollie, were often more powerful than her words.” Her castmate Leonardo DiCaprio added: “Lily has amazing presence and strength… 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.”

Killers of the Flower Moon is already being billed as Gladstone’s mainstream breakthrough performance, with Town & Country reporting that she has gotten the “biggest Oscar buzz” from the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.Despite acting alongside such prominent performers as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, Deadline claims Gladstone is the “real star” of the picture.

Gladstone will next be seen in Under the Bridge, a forthcoming Hulu real crime series starring Riley Keough and based on Rebecca Godfrey’s nonfiction book of the same name. Gladstone will play Cam Bentland, one of the few black women in the Victoria, British Columbia, police force.

Personal Life

Gladstone frequently appears on the red carpet wearing Native designer clothing and Native jewelry. She has a dog named Birdy, who appears frequently in her Instagram posts.

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