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Albertan Actors Shine In Oscar Best Picture Nominee

From the Alberta plains to the Hollywood red carpet, local actors are making a splash in Martin Scorsese’s 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by the renowned Martin Scorsese, follows the gutwrenching history of the Osage people.

It’s a story as riveting as it is true, and many Albertans played critical roles in bringing the Oscar-nominated film to the big screen. 

Lily Gladstone | Wikipedia

The US government forced the Osage to move from the rich, fertile Missouri and Red Rivers region in modern-day Kansas into the arid badlands of present-day Oklahoma. 

It was a hardscrabble place where it was difficult to eke out a minimal existence. That is until oil was discovered under the land no one wanted. 

Once oil revenue started flowing, the Osage became, for a short time, the wealthiest people per capita on earth.

The oil boom brought scam artists, and, it turns out, murderers in the 1920s. The Osage were victims of a never-ending string of murders, which, after 60+ “mysterious” deaths, finally became the subject of one of the first-ever FBI cases.

First released last fall, the film sprang to notoriety and acclamation with breakout star Lily Gladstone (Molly Burkhart) and familiar faces Robert de Niro (William Hale) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Ernest Burkhart) at the head of a cast. 

The film has received countless awards and nominations.

It got 15 nominations from the 77th British Academy Film Awards, equaling the record for most nominations. It was also nominated for seven Golden Globes. 

It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design, Best Original Song, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography.

Lily Gladstone, who portrayed Mollie Burkhart, made history by becoming the first Indigenous American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. Gladstone grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, just south of the Alberta border. 

Alberta Actors

Tantoo Cardinal | Wikipedia

But multiple Alberta-born actors from north of the border help carry the film.  

Tantoo Cardinal was the biggest Albertan name in Killers. The Fort McMurray native plays Molly Burkhart’s mother, Lizzie Q. 

Cardinal, who has been previously acclaimed for her performances in Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall, has said Killers was unlike any other production she’s ever been a part of.

Unfortunately, until recently, the actress was prevented from talking to the public about her experience in the film because of the Screen Actors Guild of America (SAGA) strike. 

Walking the red carpet at the film’s opening, she was far from the only one stunned by the sheer amount of publicity.

“I told Scorsese, “Mm, nice party.” 

Jillian Dion | IMDb
Jillian Dion | IMDb

And all these cameras were clicking away, and he said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” 

DiCaprio said the very same thing: “I have never seen anything as big as this.” 

“So both of them were having a new experience — and here we figured it was a normal day for them red-carpet people,” she described in an interview with the Edmonton Journal.

Jillian Dion, a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation northeast of Edmonton, portrayed Molly Burkhart’s sister, Minnie. She has been previously known for her roles in Legion and Into the West.

As this was her biggest movie role to date, Dion was even more overwhelmed by the magnitude of the film’s reception.

She reflected on how meaningful it was to have been a part of a film which brought to light one of many largely ignored Native American histories.

“Being on the red carpet and being representative of each of our tribes, but also as Indigenous people, as a collective…Then having Will (Belleau) doing a warrior call, was something so powerful,” she said.

Historical Accuracy

Gary Basaraba | IMDb

The film, like all Scorcese films, was applauded for its attention to detail and historical accuracy, from the costumes to set designs to storylines and scripting – few films match it.

Gary Basaraba, another well-known Albertan actor, starred as Detective Burns, a real-life detective of the time who was known as the “American Sherlock Holmes.”

Born in Edmonton, this was the third Scorsese movie he’s starred in, along with The Last Temptation of Christ and The Irishman

Every main character in the movie was based on a well-researched and genuine person who lived through the Osage murders. The actors did a fantastic job bringing their historic stories to life.

Modern themes:

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The most impactful part for Cardinal was how Osage’s tragic history translates to current issues surrounding the mineral rights of Indigenous Nations.

“We’re so used to our stories being shoved under the rug,” she said.

“I’m so looking forward to whatever impact Killers intends because Killers intends something. There’s a lot of dialogue, and I think that’s what you can hope for your art is that it creates a ruckus of some sort.”

The film has undoubtedly created a stir, and it’s great to see Albertans being a part of it.

If you want to watch these “locally grown” actors and see the true telling of this story for yourself – Killers of The Flower Moon is available for streaming now on multiple platforms or in select theatres.

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