Lily Gladstone (born August 2, 1986, Kalispell, Montana, U.S.) is an actress who rose to fame portraying Osage woman Mollie Burkhart in director Martin Scorsese’s true-crime dramaKillers of the Flower Moon (2023). Gladstone also drew praise for her performance as a reclusive rancher in director Kelly Reichardt’s drama Certain Women (2016). In 2024 she became the first Indigenous person to win a Golden Globe Award for best actress.
Gladstone was raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, by her parents, Howard Gladstone, a journalist and shipyard worker of Blackfeet and Nez Percé descent, and Betty Gladstone, an early education specialist of Dutch and Cajun ancestry. In a 2014 interview with Make It Missoula, she offered an honest assessment of her hometown:
The reputation of Browning depends on who it is you talk to. There are some incredibly ugly things that happen but shouldn’t….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.
Gladstone’s first experience on stage came playing an evil stepsister in a Missoula Children’s Theatre performance of Cinderella. Gladstone experienced bullying in her childhood years, but she found solace by immersing herself in performing and dancing. When she was 11 years old, her family moved to the Seattle area for jobs and to provide Gladstone with more opportunities to perform. When she graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in 2004 she was voted “Most Likely to Win an Oscar.” Gladstone went on to attend the University of Montana, from which she graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting and a minor in Native American studies.
Theater, film, and television roles
After graduating, Gladstone embarked on a national tour with the Montana Repertory Theatre’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird. In 2013 she returned to Browning to perform alongside Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro in her film debut, Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. Later that year she appeared in the independent film Winter in the Blood (2013), set in north-central Montana and based on the eponymousnovel by Blackfeet author James Welch. Gladstone toured with the Montana Repertory Theatre again in 2014, playing Kate Keller, Helen Keller’s mother, in a production of The Miracle Worker.
In 2016 she landed a breakthrough role opposite actress Kristen Stewart in the quiet and powerful drama Certain Women, based on three short stories by author Maile Meloy. In the film Gladstone plays Jamie, a lovelorn rancher living on her own who develops an attachment to a young lawyer (Stewart) teaching an adult education class. Gladstone joined the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company in 2017, and she reunited with director Reichardt in 2019 for a small role in the film drama First Cow. In 2022 she starred as Tana, a grieving woman on a road trip from the Midwest toward the Texas-Mexico border, in the adventure drama The Unknown Country. On the small screen, Gladstone portrayed Roxanne, the mistress—and later the wife—of wealthy realtor Charles Rhoades, Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn), in the acclaimed financial drama Billions (2016–23), appearing in six episodes between 2019 and 2023. She also played Hotki Sampson, an incarcerated medicine woman estranged from her family, in Taika Waititi’s comedy series Reservation Dogs (2021–23), which featured a largely Indigenous cast and crew.
Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content.
Killers of the Flower Moon
In summer 2020 Gladstone considered leaving the acting profession to pursue a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, she received a meeting request from Scorsese, who admired her work in Certain Women, which led to her being cast in Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese’s sprawling epic about the Osage murders in 1920s Oklahoma. The film weaves English and Osage language dialogue together, so Scorsese tasked Gladstone and fellow cast members, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, with learning to deliver lines in Osage. In a 2023 interview with People magazine, Gladstone reflected: “Speaking Osage changed the way that [her character Mollie] moved. It took months to get comfortable with the different pace of speaking.” In a 2023 article in the The Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese praised Gladstone’s commanding portrayal of Burkhart, one of only three survivors in an Osage family that was preyed upon by murderous outsiders intent on stealing their oil rights: “She understood her own onscreen presence as an expressive instrument that could speak for itself.…Her silences, as Mollie, were often more powerful than her words.”
For her portrayal of Burkhart, Gladstone won a Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actress in a drama. In her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to the Blackfeet community, her mother—an educator who worked to bring the Blackfeet language into her classroom—and fellow cast and crew members. She closed her speech with a powerful dedication:
This is for every little rez kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream, who is seeing themselves represented in our stories told by ourselves, in our own words with tremendous allies and tremendous trust with and from each other.