Cons & EventsFeaturesMovie ReviewsOn LocationReviews

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ At the Variety Artisans Screening Series

Share this:

In February, I was lucky enough to be invited to a screening of Martin Scorsese’s historical drama Killers of the Flower Moon. Taking place in downtown Los Angeles at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, the screening was followed by an exclusive Q&A with several actors from the film, including breakout star Lily Gladstone!

[Warning: Spoilers for Killers of the Flower Moon discussed below!]

My Killers of the Flower Moon experience

I didn’t watch Killers of the Flower Moon when it originally debuted in theaters. When the screening invite came in from Letterboxd and Apple TV+, I was excited about the chance to see the film at an iconic L.A. theater and hear about the cast members’ perspective on the story. 

Walking into the TCL Chinese Theatre was incredible. The building is dripping with opulence and history. Several iconic movie costumes fill the entry hall, many from the original Star Wars films. The theater itself is one of the biggest I’ve ever been in, seating up to 932 people!

Killers of the Flower Moon tackles a subject I knew nothing about before the film’s marketing campaign began. Despite being raised in the United States for most of my childhood, the Osage murders were never mentioned in any history classes. Watching the events unfold throughout the film was disturbing and uncomfortable, with several shockingly violent moments meant to unsettle viewers. 

Lily Gladstone, Robert DeNiro, and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone), William King Hale (Robert DeNiro), and Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ (Paramount/Apple TV+)

The standout performance in Killers of the Flower Moon comes courtesy of Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart. Gladstone is a powerful force on screen, driving home the pain and anguish of seeing her family members murdered one by one. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart excellently, moving between wholesome kindness and foolish violence in turn.

Robert DeNiro’s William King Hale is a sleazy, horrific human being whose duplicity is extraordinary. It’s heartbreaking to know that these events truly happened and people as terrible as Hale suffered far less than the innocent people they targeted. 

The film’s nearly 206-minute runtime does weigh heavily upon the viewer. The slow pace makes Killers of the Flower Moon drag in places, despite this award willing film’s strong writing and acting. It’s hard to sit in a theater for over three hours without a break, particularly considering how heavily Killers of the Flower Moon weighs on you.

I’m a firm believer that American films need to bring back intermissions, especially for movies that run over 180 minutes. Intermissions aren’t always interruptions; they can strengthen films and create more emotional theatrical experiences, and I wish Hollywood directors would see them in a different light.

Q&A with Lily Gladstone, John Lithgow, Tantoo Cardinal, JaNae Collins & Jillian Dion

[Editor’s note: quotes have been edited slightly for clarity.]

As soon as the credits finished rolling, several actors from Killers of the Flower Moon walked out for an exclusive Q&A hosted by Variety. In attendance were Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, JaNae Collins, and Jillian Dion. The Q&A only lasted around 25 minutes, so unfortunately there was only enough time for roughly one question per actor. However, everyone had a lot to say about what the film meant to them. 

Lily Gladstone spoke about the “immediate connection” she felt between herself and Mollie Burkhart as a result of the offer coincidentally coming in on December 1st, Mollie Burkhart’s birthday:

It felt like there was a responsibility that was really important that I receive. Because [the offer] happened that way, it was like an immediate connection to the person that I was playing. And because there really is nobody living today who knew her. There’s not video footage, there’s not a lot that I could really study about her specifically other than what was in photographs and court records. It was important that she be shaped by […] her legacy, and what people know and remember and feel, and inherit and pass forward from that generation.”

Tantoo Cardinal was asked about her approach to shaping her character, Lizzie Q, Mollie Burkhart’s mother. Her answer was powerful, and everyone in the audience could feel the depth of her emotions and what it meant to her own life.

I come from that world where people have been seriously ripped off. I come from that world where women’s lives are in danger. I come from the world of genocide, colonialism, femicide. It’s in my blood, it’s in my bones. It’s in my world. So that was my preparation.”

“And I also come from the world where languages disappear, right in front of your eyes. But I had the great good fortune of being raised by my grandmother. And I was raised with a number of languages in my head, all the time, when I was a child. I also came from an isolated community. And so the outside world was kind of a fuzz in the background, in my formative years, so a lot of my knowing is intuitive.”

Killers of the Flower Moon actors
Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, JaNae Collins, and Jillian Dion during the ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Q&A (Photo by Uday Kataria)

“So there’s a deep loneliness in not having my language, not hearing my language, and knowing people I grew up with not having any language. Because it was that close, my generation. My brother is six years younger than me, he has very little of that language. It was that fast and that quick. The preparation for me was to translate all of that force into that Osage place, which was not difficult because I have great compassion, and heartland, for our industry and who we are and what we have gone through and what we have survived. […]”

“When I was a child, I could only go in the dark with my grandmother when she wanted to go and see some healers and I had to swear to secrecy and silence. And then in my adult years, I witnessed those laws being changed by people in our community, by our warriors in our community, that have gotten their education. They got the language of the government and the laws. And they traverse that territory. So now, it’s okay to carry a pipe. Now it’s okay to have those articles of communication. But it was against the law. That’s what it meant that those pipes were buried at the beginning of [the film], that meant now the government and business and church are the boss. That’s what that meant.”

John Lithgow spoke about coming in at the end of the lengthy shoot for a minor role opposite Brendan Fraser when the Osage murders are finally taken to court.

“I just think the entire experience educated me and opened my mind a lot. […] I came in the last couple of weeks, everybody else was so exhausted. They’d been living in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in a hotel for six or seven months. And “I was a breath of fresh air” is a nice way to describe it. It certainly was that for me, I was working with just remarkable people. I waited my whole career to work with Martin and Leo and Bob. […] I felt it was a great honor to be brought into this particular piece of storytelling and to work with people like this. Sadly, I was only working with Leo. I mean, [a little] with Lily because she was in the audience for the courtroom, everybody else had passed away by then.”

Finally, the panel moderator asked JaNae Collins and Jillian Dion about crafting the relationship between Mollie and her sisters. Collins said:

“All four of us are only children for the most part. So understanding the dynamic of the sisters was a process for us. We’ve watched other sisters in the Osage community because they have a very particular birth order and kind of like personalities that emerge with the birth order. So it was interesting seeing that in the community and taking that step back 100 years to portray it as it would have been.”

Dion added:

“We realized there was a really fluid dynamic between the four of, and it felt like home already. […] It just felt natural. And I think that made [it] in the film, just because there was a community in such a natural love, for everybody that we worked with and alongside so I think that was a big part of it.”

Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon
Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ (Paramount/Apple TV+)

Finally, Lily Gladstone discussed whether Ernest and Mollie were truly in love.

“It was Margie or Carter, Mollie’s granddaughter, who pressed that point. ‘You have to remember in telling this that Ernest and Mollie were in love, they loved each other.’ […] I mean, the biggest clue to me that there was love in that household that was true, that we had the responsibility of finding somehow, was that [Ernest’s] son Cowboy, even after the trial, maintained a relationship with his dad. He gave him the nickname ‘Dynamite’. He would excuse himself from being with people and say, ‘I gotta pick up old Dynamite now’. But he still had a relationship with his dad until later on. I think there was a rift at some point and Cowboy didn’t go see him as much, but [it] just kind of shows you that there was something that kept that family together, that made those kids love being together, love having fun, [and] gave them a certain relationship with each other.”

Final thoughts on Killers of the Flower Moon

It was wonderful to hear more about this film’s production during the Q&A. I thought what Lily Gladstone said about Mollie and Ernest truly being in love was interesting because I didn’t feel it come across in the film as strongly as intended given the focus on it behind the scenes. Viewers can tell the two loved each other, but as the film progresses and Ernest does more and more terrible things, it becomes unbelievable how Mollie can’t see what lies in front of her. 

Of course, this is based on a true story, and that makes it all the more heartbreaking. But I felt a disconnect in the second half of the film as Ernest began outright poisoning Mollie, and she continued to not suspect anything because her sadness seemed to outweigh the importance of her love for Ernest.

Killers of the Flower Moon is now available on digital.  What did you think of this film? Let us know on social media @MyCosmicCircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

Black Panther Costumes at the Afrofuturism in Costume Design Exhibition by Ruth E. Carter

Black Panther costume exhibition

Shogun Review: Another Massive Win For FX

Shogun Review Banner

Share this:

Uday Kataria

Hi! I'm a huge Marvel, DC, and LEGO fan. I run my own YouTube channel (GoldenNinja3000) and write/host podcasts for The Cosmic Circus. I also created and produced the LEGO Ninjago short film "Golden Hour".

Uday Kataria has 70 posts and counting. See all posts by Uday Kataria