GREAT FALLS — Actor Lily Gladstone could be on her way to becoming a household name in Hollywood, but the Browning-raised member of the Blackfeet Nation is not forgetting her Montana roots.
She stars opposite a pair of screen legends in her latest film, directed by one of the most recognizable names in the industry.
In “Killers of the Flower Moon”, Gladstone plays the role of Mollie Kyle. Starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, the film, directed by Martin Scorsese, tells the story of suspicious murders of members of the Osage Nation who became some of the richest people in the world after the discovery of oil under their land.
On one hand, it was an easy role to accept.
“I mean, do you say “no” when Martin Scorsese calls?” Gladstone said in an interview recently.
It was Gladstone’s breakout performance in the critically acclaimed 2016 film “Certain Women” that helped land her the role in the screen adaptation of author David Grann’s 2017 book, which after reading, Gladstone says gave her an immediate response to who Mollie was, based largely on stories she heard about her own great grandmother and namesake.
“I'd grown up hearing stories about how she was how she was in public, how she was in private, with family, the blend of traditionalism being a very traditional Blackfoot woman, but also being a very devout Catholic,” said Gladstone.
While she didn’t know the story of Mollie before the book, through her early love of ballet she was aware of an Osage performing icon.
“My parents let me know about Maria Tallchief, the America's first prima ballerina,” said Gladstone. “She was an Osage from Fairfax, the same town where a lot of the film takes place, same town where the Kyle sisters lived closest to those early days.”
Gladstone, a University of Montana graduate, remembers learning about Osage oil wealth which goes along with the classic story depicted in the film.
“The first generation that had this money, they would be driving around these Rolls-Royces, and the car would run out of gas, and they'd just leave it and then go buy another one,” said Gladstone.
Gladstone says she could identify with the role and learned a lot about a dark period in the nation’s history.
“What I've learned since then, since making the movie, since reading the book is the FBI did turn up about 60 names of people that were killed in this reign of terror,’ said Gladstone. “There were far more than that. There are so many unsolved cases in the hundreds, several hundred people.”
Gladstone says she’s grateful the increased notoriety with the film is affording her an opportunity address other key issues facing Native Americans, including a documentary by Blackfeet filmmakers Ivy and Ivan McDonald on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women which she’s serving as executive producer and narrator.
“One of the most heavily featured stories in that one is Ashley Loring Heavy Runner. Absolutely. I hope that any recognition that I might garner through this period eventually goes back to where it's supposed to go,” said Gladstone.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is playing in select movie theaters and will later be available to stream on Apple TV.