Posted on February 4, 2024

Lily Gladstone’s Plan to Expand Indigenous Inclusion

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2024

When all this is over, when Lily Gladstone no longer has to discuss and dissect and get all dressed up to celebrate “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the movie that first came into her life nearly five years ago and has now propelled her into history as the first Native American to earn an Oscar nomination for lead actress, she’s going to head back home to her family in suburban Seattle. Gladstone moved in with her parents a few years ago to help take care of her special-needs uncle and her grandmother, who died last summer after battling dementia. Her immediate plan: Pay off her parents’ mortgage this year. Next step: Carve out a space for herself nearby.


For Gladstone, 37, the job has had its ups and downs. In 2019, the year she was first approached to play Mollie Kyle, the Osage woman who suffers as her family and friends are murdered for the rights to their oil rich Oklahoma land in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Gladstone patched together enough income to break the poverty line. That had never happened before. Then the pandemic shut life down, and Gladstone thought, not for the first time, about quitting the business.

She doesn’t want to be too dramatic about this pivot point in her career. As she has navigated the awards season the last few months, starting with the long ovation she received at the “Killers” premiere at Cannes, certain narratives have emerged — and she’s happy to chip away at them. (No, she doesn’t find “Yellowstone” delusional — just the remarks by its creator, Taylor Sheridan, saying that his 2017 film “Wind River” “changed a law” affecting violence against Indigenous people.)


When the “Killers of the Flower Moon” casting directors first contacted her for the film in 2019, Mollie had just three scenes in the screenplay. It was a Martin Scorsese movie, so it wasn’t as if she was going to pass. Gladstone, whose father is Blackfeet and Nez Perce, figured she’d try to land the role and then do what Native American actors too often have to do — try to influence and reshape the role to make it authentic and meaningful.


In between events, Gladstone recently managed to visit Native filmmaker friends in Tulsa for a few days to brainstorm ideas on some projects and then pop over to Oklahoma City for a Jason Isbell concert. She’d like to bring both her mom and dad to the Oscars. “We’ll be the masked family,” she says. “They’re so happy and proud.” She plans to soon announce a distribution deal for “Fancy Dance,” a drama about the challenges Native women face that premiered at Sundance last year. Also on tap is a starring role in “Memory Police,” a twisty sci-fi parable written by Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation”).

Lately, Gladstone has been thinking about something “Reservation Dogs” creator Sterlin Harjo told her: If you’re the person who kicks the door down, your job is to stay in the door and keep it open. You just don’t run through it, because if you do, it’ll shut behind you.

“This is a moment for all of us,” Gladstone says of her historic nomination, news she shared with her parents in a tearful Facetime call. “It’s a lot to put on one person to represent an entire group of people who have been unrepresented for so long.”

“It’s overwhelming and overdue,” she continues. “The stories of our Indigenous people have shaped the very foundational fabric of our modern day. And so much of that is just not known, not felt, not acknowledged. I’m grateful, but it’s not going to be the last. Not by a long shot.”


She holds out her hand and offers a promise: “Native women are unstoppable. We’re an unmanageable lot, and you’re going to be hearing a lot from us moving forward. And you won’t be disappointed.”