Oscars 2024 Highlights: ‘Oppenheimer’ Wins Best Picture, and Emma Stone Wins Best Actress for ‘Poor Things’

by The Technical Blogs


Lily Gladstone, whose powerful performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon” fueled a rapid ascent to Hollywood stardom, ended a career-defining awards season run at the Oscars, where she was the first Native American person to be nominated for a competitive acting Academy Award.

Gladstone played a wealthy Osage woman whose family becomes a target of a murderous plot by white men to steal their oil rights. The actress quickly drew accolades following the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour historical epic at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

“You are the soul of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’” said the actress Jennifer Lawrence, as she introduced Gladstone as a nominee on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Gladstone, who has Blackfeet and Nez Percé heritage, became the first Indigenous person to win a Golden Globe for best actress, using her moment on the stage to share a snippet of Blackfeet language and remind the industry how far Hollywood had come in representing Native Americans onscreen.

“In this business Native actors used to speak their lines in English and then the sound mixers would run them backwards to accomplish Native languages on camera,” said Gladstone, 37, who also picked up best-actress wins from the Screen Actors Guild and the New York Film Critics Circle.

Other Indigenous performers have won Oscars. The folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie is considered the first, getting best original song for “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1983 (though her Indigenous Canadian heritage has recently been disputed), and Taika Waititi, who is of Maori descent, took home best adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit” (2019). In the best actress category, Indigenous performers like Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider,” 2003) and Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma,” 2018) have been in the running for the honor. But among Native Americans, Gladstone is the first to be nominated for that competitive prize. (Wes Studi, who is Cherokee American, received an honorary Oscar in 2019.)

“There’s a handful of people who love film that have been aware of my career for a while, but this has been like being shot out of a cannon,” Gladstone told The New York Times in a profile earlier this year.

In portraying Mollie Burkhart, a real-life figure who survived the Reign of Terror against the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma, Gladstone brought to life the complexities of a woman who was both charmed by the romantic interest of a brash white interloper — played by Leonardo DiCaprio — and deeply suspicious of him. With a performance that could be both emotionally reserved but gutting, Gladstone became the standout in a cast that included two longtime Hollywood fixtures, DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Gladstone did not follow the typical path of an actor. Instead of moving to Los Angeles or New York to audition in her 20s, she stayed in Montana, touring schools with a one-woman show about the Native American boarding school system and building relationships with local filmmakers. Her career breakthrough came in the 2016 film “Certain Women.”

With “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Gladstone’s talents were given the heft of a big-budget film. She learned to speak Osage with a language teacher and dialect coach, and she consulted with Margie Burkhart, her character’s granddaughter, about her grandparents’ relationship. After Scorsese met in Oklahoma with descendants of the victims, the director worked to deepen the roles of the Osage characters in the script, giving Gladstone access to experts who could advise her on aspects of her performance.

As she has made the media rounds, Gladstone has spoken about the challenges in an industry with few opportunities for Native actors. A recent study found that out of roles in 1,600 films released from 2007 to 2022, speaking parts for Native actors amounted to less than one quarter of 1 percent.

“If I’ve kicked the door in,” Gladstone said in an interview with The New Yorker, “I’m just trying to stand here and leave it open for everybody else.”


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