Lily Gladstone Is the Breakout Star of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival
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The biggest Oscars buzz out of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival is around Lily Gladstone, an Indigenous actress who has a breakthrough role in Killers of the Flower Moon. "I’m very much in a state of being in the moment right now," Gladstone said of the reception to the film. "But I feel so grateful. I just feel so grateful."
Before awards season really kicks off this fall, get to know Gladstone:
1. She grew up on the Blackfeet Nation reservation.
Born in 1986, Lily Gladstone is of Siksikaitsitapi and NiMíiPuu heritage. (Her father is NiMíiPuu, or Nez Perce, and Siksikaitsitapi, also called Blackfeet, and her mother is white.) They grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana, and lived there until she was 11. Her family, she says, "moved for lack of economic opportunities."
"The reputation of Browning depends on who it is you talk to," Gladstone said in a 2014 interview. "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."
2. They attended University of Montana.
Gladstone graduated in 2008 from UM's honors college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an Acting focus, and a minor in Native American Studies.
"There are a lot of talented kids at UM, but she’s always been a standout," Greg Johnson, who taught and directed Gladstone in Montana Repertory Theatre productions, said in 2016. "She’s absolutely a transcendent actress. We were lucky to have her."
From 2009 to 2013, she worked with Living Voices, an educational touring theater company performing shows about marginalized histories.
3. Gladstone made her film debut in 2013.
Her first role was in Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian in 2013. She went on to star opposite Kristen Stewart in Certain Women in 2016, earning her a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female. She's also appeared on television, in Room 104, Billions, and Reservation Dogs.
"I am shaped by my community – and I have been supported in my ambition to be an actor and storyteller," Gladstone said.
4. Her breakout role is in Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorese.
Gladstone plays Mollie Kyle, based on Mollie Burkhart, a real Osage woman. "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," she wrote upon news of her casting. "Iiksukapi, niksokowaiks. The very best to you, my friends ❤️" For the film, Gladstone learned to speak Osage.
The film, which is based on David Grann's book of the same name, premiered at Cannes to rave reviews—particularly for Gladstone's performance. "I could see that she trusted in simplicity," Scorsese said of Gladstone. "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."
"Lily has amazing presence and strength," DiCaprio said of his costar. "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."
The film will premiere this fall on Apple TV+.
5. They are passionate about Native representation.
In the past, Gladstone worked with a Native American youth theatre program, Red Eagle Soaring, based in Seattle. "I think that role modeling is part of being a young native person," they said. "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."
Montana, too, is really important for them. "I’m never going to fully leave Montana," Gladstone said in 2016. "I like being in a place where I can work with Native communities. And Missoula’s a really nice place to be grounded when you’re a working, traveling artist."
6. They often wear Native designers.
Her Cannes film festival looks, in particular, featured Native jewelry. On the red carpet, for example, Gladstone wore earrings by Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock designer Jamie Okuma.
7. She has a dog named Birdy.
Birdy is a regular feature on Gladstone's Instagram:
8. Gladstone is a "bee nerd."
If it wasn't for Killers of the Flower Moon, in August 2020, Gladstone "planned to apply for seasonal work with the Department of Agriculture tracking murder hornets — yes, murder hornets — that were wreaking havoc around the country at the time," the Hollywood Reporter writes.
9. Gladstone has a lot of projects upcoming.
Gladstone is currently in Vancouver shooting Under the Bridge, a true crime series for Hulu, based on a book of the same name by Rebecca Godfrey. According to the streamer, the show is "about the 1997 true story of fourteen-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."
Gladstone will play Cam Bentland, one of the only women of color on the police force in Victoria, BC. Per the character description, "Over the course of the series, Cam is forced to confront her own repression around her queer sexuality and identity, and begins to question the status quo in her line of work — leading her to rise above to do the job the way she believes it should be done."
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