Lily Gladstone, the Indigenous actress who plays Mollie Burkhart in the highly anticipated film “Killers of the Flower Moon,” caused a stir over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival where she was there to promote the world premiere of “Fancy Dance.” But when she gave an interview to Variety, she mentioned the Osage Nation.
The reporter asked about her experience working with Leonardo DiCaprio, to which she replied, “It was great!”
She then explains that everyone on the KOTFM set was a committed artist, working toward finding the truth in every scene. When asked whether Scorsese and his team worked with the Osage people on the film’s accuracy, she responded with an earnest, “They sure tried.”
“The work is better when you let the world inform the work,” Gladstone said. “That was very refreshing how involved the production got with the [Osage Nation] community. As the community warmed up to our presence, the more the community got involved with the film. It’s a different movie than the one [Scorsese] walked in to make almost entirely because of what the community had to say about how it was being made and what was being portrayed.”
This isn’t surprising considering the Osage people have been actively involved in the telling of “Killers of the Flower Moon” every step of the way. When Imperative Entertainment bought the rights to David Grann’s bestselling book in 2016, news spread over time that the film would be made out of state. That’s when the Nation stepped in.
Below is a timeline of events and the Nation’s involvement:
July of 2017, it’s announced that legendary director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have signed on for a film adaptation of KOTFM.
January of 2018, an Osage dinner was held for Imperative Entertainment executives. The dinner took place at the Big Rain Gallery in Pawhuska after two days of showing the executives around the Osage reservation. In attendance were elected leaders, notable Osages from all three districts, and the Osage ambassadors Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear had appointed for the film, Chad Renfro and Addie Roanhorse. Roanhorse would later join the crew full-time.
July of 2019, Scorsese and his production team meet with Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear in a two-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Executive Conference room on the Nation’s campus. They spoke at length about Osage culture in the 1920s and the importance of being historically accurate. Scorsese confirms to Standing Bear he would work closely with the Nation on the aspects of culture, history and Osage language.
October and November of 2019, Freihofer Casting works with Osage News to publicize a two-day Osage citizen casting call. Hundreds of Osages show up for the event. A call for Osage artisans is also made. Community artisans begin making hundreds of moccasins, ribbonwork, yarn belts and other Osage clothing for the film. Consultants from the Osage Language Department and Wahzhazhe Cultural Center get involved with the film.
December of 2019, Scorsese and his team meet with the Grayhorse Community for a dinner and more than 200 Osages show up. Scorsese and his team shake everyone’s hand, from elders to young children. He was served meat gravy, frybread, dried corn, squash, green beans and salad. One by one, members of the community stood up and spoke about their Osage experience, being from Grayhorse and their wishes for the film. Scorsese graciously listened to everyone and offered comments at the end.
February of 2021, it’s announced that Gladstone, who is of Kainai (Blood), Amskapi Piikani (Blackfeet), and Niimiipuu (Nez Perce) Tribal Nations, will be the Indigenous actress portraying Mollie Burkhart, the Osage heroine of the film. Later that month, Scorsese and DiCaprio meet with Osage cultural leaders at the Woolaroc Museum to discuss the film’s plot and address community concerns.
April of 2021, the Nation conducts a blessing for cast and crew on the first day of filming. Osage language instructor and cultural singer, OJ Littlecook, sings a prayer song and Grayhorse elder Archie Mason gives the prayer.
May of 2021, Apple Original Film reveals a First Look photo of the film. In the photo, Gladstone and DiCaprio are shown at a dinner table where Osage grape dumplings are being served. Osage cultural consultants are on set advising cast and crew, Osages from the community are hired in all departments of the film, Osages are asked to cook the food for the scenes, Osages are asked to be extras for the film, as well as many Native Americans from various tribes. Many have gone on to stay in the film industry and are currently working on the sets of “Reservation Dogs,” “Tulsa King,” “Yellowstone,” “1883,” and other productions.
October of 2021, filming wraps on KOTFM. The film’s producers make statements to the Osage people for their cooperation and participation in the making of the film.
May of 2022, a community dance scene is filmed on the Osage Nation campus and hundreds of Osages attend in traditional clothing. Scorsese gives remarks to the crowd at the end of the day.
“We’re so grateful for the love that you put into this film,” Scorsese said. “We appreciate you, we appreciate the Osage people and we’re so grateful for your participation today. Thank You so much.”