UPDATED to clarify: Leonardo DiCaprio has only words of praise for Killers of the Flower Moon breakout star Lily Gladstone.
In the film, DiCaprio and Gladstone portray real-life husband and wife Ernest and Mollie Burkhart, a couple living on the Osage Reservation in 1920s Oklahoma, a tumultuous time in history. Gladstone herself is Native American, and grew up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near the Montana-Canada border.
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“Lily is absolutely astonishing in this movie,” DiCaprio told British Vogue in its October cover story featuring DiCaprio and Gladstone “She carries the entire film and the story.”
Gladstone initially did a selftape audition before Covid shut everything down, she previously told Interview magazine. She said the project had gone quiet and she assumed she had blown the audition, but got a request to Zoom with Scorsese about a year later. DiCaprio was not on that call, and she did not do a reading with the actor, but Scorsese had made his decision.
DiCaprio, who’s now made six films with Scorsese, reflected on their first meeting with Gladstone over Zoom. “Marty just instinctively knew Lily was the one, DiCaprio said” He then turned to Gladstone saying, “There was a truthfulness in your eyes that he saw even over a computer screen.”
“I’ve never known [Scorsese] meet somebody and then immediately afterwards have this gravitational pull and instinct to say, ‘Let’s not wait another minute,'” DiCaprio added.
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Scorsese shared his impressions of Gladstone with Deadline earlier this year: “Lily had her own thoughts. She has an intelligence and a groundedness about her, in her mind and heart. It’s almost instinctual.”
Scorsese and DiCaprio urged Gladstone to delve into the moral aspects of the story.
“Marty and Leo had conversations with me about what the nature of evil is, and how evil doesn’t see itself as evil,” she remembers. “Can somebody really love and honor another, feel all these things in one aspect of their psyche, and then turn around and do all of these other hateful, evil, entitled things? The tightrope walk was exploring the relationship between Ernest and Mollie.”
Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion and Tantoo Cardinal also star in the film based on David Grann’s 2009 book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, about the FBI’s investigation into a series of murders of the Osage people that took place in Oklahoma in the early 1920s.
After some initial retooling of the script, Scorsese decided to bring Gladstone’s Mollie to the film’s forefront.
“We weren’t immersed in the Osage story,” DiCaprio said of the initial drafts. “There was this tiny, small scene between Mollie and Ernest that provoked such emotion in us at the reading, and we just started to penetrate into what that relationship was, because it was so twisted and bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
Apple, in partnership with Paramount, will launch the film to a wide global theatrical release on October 20.
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