“Killers of the Flower Moon” star Lily Gladstone, Oscar winner predictions, our secret ballot, and more in EW's “The Awardist”

We look back on the Best Actress nominee's historic awards season and acclaimed performance and Martin Scorsese's film. Plus, our Oscar winner predictions and results of our annual poll of anonymous voters, and more in the new issue of EW's "The Awardist" digital magazine.

<p>Illustration by Ryan Melgar</p>

Illustration by Ryan Melgar

The rise of Lily Gladstone

By Gerrad Hall
Illustration by Ryan Melgar

Straight out of the awards season gate, Killers of the Flower Moon star Lily Gladstone had early momentum with the Best Actress win from the National Board of Review. A few dozen top honors from film critics' circles and various organizations followed, as well as the Golden Globe. And then, Jessica Chastain announced a stunned Gladstone as the Female Actor in a Leading Role winner.

As she did at the Globes, the actress started her SAG speech in Blackfeet language, then telling the audience full of actors: "It's truly a gift that we get to do this for a living. That's the win, is getting to be here, is getting to be on set, is getting to tell stories. We bring empathy into a world that so much needs it. It's so easy to distance ourselves. It's so easy to close off, to stop feeling. And we all bravely keep feeling, and that humanizes people. That brings people out of the shadows. It brings visibility. Keep telling stories to everybody in this room, to everybody watching abroad — those of you who are not actors but have a voice, have a story that needs to be heard. Thank you for all of the compassionate souls in this room and all of the storytellers here tonight. Keep speaking your truths, and keep speaking up for each other."

Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV + Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV + Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Killers of the Flower Moon is one of those movies that put the spotlight on people whose stories needed to be heard, bringing visibility to people who were living in the shadows. In Martin Scorsese's film, Gladstone plays Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose family was being picked off one by one by white people who moved to Oklahoma to take advantage of the newfound oil riches. Mollie's husband, Ernest, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, loved her but also had marching orders from his uncle, William Hale (Robert De Niro), to get her money by whatever means necessary.

Gladstone imbued her Mollie with a devastating depth of grief and heartbreak felt by all of the Osage Nation during the string of murders that left hundreds dead. Her strength and resilience, though, might be greater than any superhero we've seen on the big screen over the past decade. In the process, she is the first Native American woman nominated for Best Actress — and as she told us the day of Oscar nominations, she says she's "not going to be the last, not by a long shot."

Below, read excerpts from EW Sr. Writer Devan Coggan's interviews with Gladstone about the movie — including working with DiCaprio and their on-screen relationship — and from our chat with her the day of Oscar nominations.

Apple TV+ Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
Apple TV+ Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

On working with Leonardo DiCaprio

I thank him a lot because transitioning between scenes, he didn’t drop Ernest. He maybe dropped Ernest back a step, but he stayed in character and brought all of his charm to that. So, as Mollie, it helped me see somebody that she would be interested in. I really appreciated that.

When we were working, we worked together very easily. When we were volleying things back and forth, there was a natural cadence that developed. He also wanted to learn how Ernest would help Mollie put her blanket on or take it off. So, we developed this actors’ language for these two characters that ends up being very seamless. And it all goes to serve that grand betrayal.

On the contradiction in Mollie and Ernest's relationship

Ernest was not the first white man that Mollie courted. This system was in place where Osages who were declared incompetent had to have a white person — mostly a white male — handling their finances and granting them access to their money. So, for a lot of Osage women particularly, it was way more convenient to have your guardian be your spouse and in your household, so you didn’t have to drive into town to talk to this stuffy old man about giving you enough money so you can go get your medicine to manage your diabetes. You could just say to your husband, “We’re having a fete, so I need the check for this many pounds of meat.” There was an element where this was a kind of mutual beneficial relationship.

That’s why I think we were able to have a little bit of fun in that first scene with Ernest and Mollie. Mollie’s able to call him out for wanting money, but she admits to her sisters, “Of course he wants money, but he’s also kind of dumb, and he looks good, and he wants to be settled.” We wanted a modern audience to be invested. When we look at love stories from that era, they were different back then. So, it was kind of a balancing act, like how much do we bring in to honor the true history and set up these characters? How much of classic cinema do we infuse to make this the piece of art that it is? And mostly, we wanted to rightfully restore Native women in these leading roles, in a space and a film history that we’ve been excluded from. The love story proved to be a very good fertile ground to have a lot of those conversations.

On speaking with Mollie's granddaughter, Margie Burkhart

I think Margie was still very puzzled about how it was possible. She knew there was love there. Ernest declared until his dying day that he loved Mollie. One of the biggest confirmations of that is that Ernest learned Osage fluently. In the screenplay, Mollie is depicted differently in her handle of language, but in any case, he took the time to learn. And Osage, [Leo and I] can both say that it’s not an easy language to learn. We spoke it as well as we could for the film, but for Ernest to do that, it showed a level of intelligence that he had that I think a lot of people may have missed — and his level of commitment to his wife. But after all of it, Margie said it was really something to see how this love could have existed [on screen]. She said it felt like maybe that’s how it would have played out. That was definitely one thing that we were most concerned about, and we were very pleased when we both saw the film that we had somehow done it.

<p>Apple TV+</p> Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Apple TV+

Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

On filming in Fairfax and Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where the film's real events took place

I think it was essential. Being in the actual Shoun brothers’ office, where Mollie would have sat, made that scene feel enormously creepy. The Masonic lodge... we shot on location in the Masons’ hall where it would have happened.

You feel it in the land and in the place, but mostly you feel it in the people. It was such a gift to be able to be within the Osage community. I had a number of Osage friends that I got to connect with before the film, and I still go back all the time. Some of my closest friendships were molded during this period of time. For me, I think it’s so important when you’re telling a story like this to maintain community accountability. Maintaining these friendships that I made, it’s keeping that going on my part.

There was one night in particular I remember: The night that Anna Brown was murdered, what we were shooting was the scene where Anna leaves the house. So, it would have been on that night. I was standing there watching Cara Jade Myers climb in next to Scott Shepherd as Byron, watching them drive off together under a full flower moon, a super moon. It was doing the same thing it was doing a hundred years prior in 1921, because we were filming in 2021. Even before we got to production, I was offered this role on Mollie Burkhart’s birthday, unbeknownst to me. It felt like…. I don’t like saying the word supernatural because it’s almost the most natural thing in the world that all of these things lined up the way they did. But it shows you that it was impactful. The land remembers, the people remember, and because of projects like this, it’s not going to be lost in time.

On being the first Native American actress nominated for Best Actress

It’s incredible, and a huge part of me just wants to say that it shouldn’t have been me. This should have happened so much longer ago. I shared the screen in this film with Tantoo Cardinal, who’s from Canada, but that’s a border that crossed a lot of us. I grew up watching performances from Sheila Tousey, who I was lucky enough to share the stage with at one point in my career. Her work in ThunderheartI feel like after that, she should have been in every film and nominated for everything. There’s no actress alive that surpasses Sheila’s talent. She’s one of the true greats.

It's incredible that this has happened, and it took a while. I remember when Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Whale Rider, and I remember how I felt when I watched this incredible actress, the youngest and first Indigenous nominee in the category, tell this story. That felt so universal and felt so close to my upbringing, to my relationship with my land, with my family, with my father, with my language, all of it. It was incredible to see her representation, and this feels like it’s a true honor.

Listen to more of our in-depth interview with Lily Gladstone, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, in the podcast below.

Get the latest awards season analysis and hear from the actors, creators, and more who are contenders this season on Entertainment Weekly's The Awardist podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall. Be sure to listen/subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, or via your own voice-controlled smart speaker (Alexa, Google Home).

Oscar winner predictions

<p>Focus Features; Searchlight Pictures; Universal Pictures; AMPAS</p>

Focus Features; Searchlight Pictures; Universal Pictures; AMPAS

With the Oscars just days away, gone is the question "Who should win?" with the focus on "Who will win?" EW's Oscars expert Joey Nolfi has made his final winner predictions — below are a handful of the top categories, but you can check out all 23 categories here.

Best Picture

American Fiction
Anatomy of a Fall
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Past Lives
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Surprisingly, the Best Picture battle of the three-hour-plus movies was over relatively quickly, after winners for significant precursors were announced. Christopher Nolan's historical drama cleaned up at the box office — earning over $950 million globally — before sweeping the early awards circuit, enough so that the movie has become the default choice for nearly all journalist groups and industry awards bodies (including a momentous BAFTA win for Best Film and the ensemble prize at the 2024 SAG Awards) alike. Nothing can stop Oppenheimer's reign — not even Martin Scorsese's similarly lengthy, critically lauded twilight-era entry in his decades-long career.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Emily Blunt, director Christopher Nolan, and Cillian Murphy on the set of 'Oppenheimer'
Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Emily Blunt, director Christopher Nolan, and Cillian Murphy on the set of 'Oppenheimer'

Best Director

Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
PREDICTED WINNER: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

The man behind the success of Oppenheimer is exactly what Hollywood needs right now: an A-list director popular with actors, fellow filmmakers, and audiences alike. He's a movie-making titan who can sell tickets to a picture on his name alone, regardless of star wattage in front of his camera. His vitality to the system stretches beyond Hollywood and into cinema's global reaches, and Academy voters across multiple branches spoke in favor of his Oppenheimer achievements by awarding the film with 13 overall Oscar nods in January. Building that kind of support among the branches all but assures that the Academy will hoist Nolan to the podium for the first time for stringing it all together in one movie.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
PREDICTED WINNER: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction

At one point, there was a shift in the seemingly inevitable narrative that Cillian Murphy might go along for the ride as Oppenheimer decimated nearly every voter's attention at the start of the race, but critical favor burned slow and steady for The HoldoversPaul Giamatti toward the end of 2023, as his turn as a curmudgeonly professor watching over a troubled student (Dominic Sessa) over a bleak holiday break spoke to the softer side of the heart, versus Murphy's fire and fury. In that sense, you'd think that Giamatti's is a far more accessible, tender performance that could speak to a wider range of voters, but the SAG statuette and the BAFTA went to Murphy, putting a major stop to Giamatti's late-breaking surge and cementing Murphy as this year's likely Best Actor winner.

Best Actress

Annette Bening, Nyad
PREDICTED WINNER: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall
Carey Mulligan, Maestro
Emma Stone, Poor Things

Keeping up with category tradition, Best Actress is perhaps the most interesting acting race of the year — thanks to the atypical contenders vying for the top prize. Lily Gladstone made history by becoming the first Native actress to score a nod in this category, and she seemed likeliest to win as the race kicked off last year. Poor Things' star and Academy favorite Emma Stone, however, rocked the narrative with her off-kilter work in Yorgos Lanthimos' peculiar emotional epic, charting her Frankenstein-esque character's evolution from dawdling infant to fully realized feminist. Purely on the surface, there's not as much of an outward arc in Gladstone's similarly sublime performance, and when voting on a winner, there was a time in the current race when it seemed like the whole of the Academy's base might gravitate toward a performance they can feel and see written all over Stone via makeup, costumes, and more transformational elements — but, Gladstone's triumph at the SAG Awards confirmed undying passion for her brilliant work in Scorsese's film, and she'll make history once again at the Academy's podium on Oscar night.

You can hear the rest of Joey's predictions on the Awardist podcast.

And below, we've put together a printable ballot to make your Oscar viewing party complete,

<p>Entertainment Weekly</p> EW's 2024 Oscars ballot

Entertainment Weekly

EW's 2024 Oscars ballot

4 anonymous Oscar voters get very candid about secret ballot picks

<p>Adobe Stock; Warner Bros; Universal Pictures; Focus Features; Netflix - Design: Alex Sandoval</p>

Adobe Stock; Warner Bros; Universal Pictures; Focus Features; Netflix - Design: Alex Sandoval

Before Sunday's ceremony — which will include likely Oscar victories for front-running contenders including OppenheimerChristopher NolanCillian MurphyLily GladstoneDa'Vine Joy Randolph, and Robert Downey Jr. — EW polled a group of working Hollywood professionals and current Academy members (whose identities will remain a secret) on who they voted for to win this year. And while their answers might not shock you, what they have to say about some of this year's biggest competitors may.

Here's what you need to know about the voters:

The Actress: Decades of on-screen appearances in movies and on television shows cap this performer's eclectic filmography.

The Director: This award-nominated filmmaker has earned their reputation of excellence on screens both big and small.

The Marketer: An industry veteran who regularly promotes both awards season darlings and major commercial projects.

The Writer: With a long list of industry credits, this scribe has penned and produced everything from A-list star vehicles to notable genre entries in film and TV.

Below, read what they had to say about Best Picture (Maestro is 'vanity show,' 'hated' Poor Things), and check out the full results of our poll here to see what they had to say about Director, the four acting categories, and Original and Adapted Screenplay.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Cillian Murphy and director Christopher Nolan on the set of 'Oppenheimer'
Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Cillian Murphy and director Christopher Nolan on the set of 'Oppenheimer'

Marketer: Oppenheimer speaks volumes to excellence of filmmaking and the power of what a film can do. On paper, I don’t think a year ago we would’ve thought this would be a zeitgeist moment, and Oppenheimer incorporated all the elements, from an incredible ensemble to a phenomenal script to the craftspeople — top to bottom, a superlative film. The headline should be to stop releasing movies in the last two months of the year. You don’t need to be released in the last two or three months of the year to become part of the conversation as a nominee or winner.... I didn’t care for The Zone of Interest. It came out of the gate so acclaimed, I had high expectations, and I found the film incredibly self-indulgent. I was disappointed, I wanted to feel something, I wanted to be moved, and I felt frustrated by that film.

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Past Lives

  3. Poor Things

  4. The Holdovers

  5. Anatomy of a Fall

  6. Barbie

  7. Killers of the Flower Moon

  8. American Fiction

  9. Maestro

  10. The Zone of Interest

Director: Nobody was more excited to see Poor Things than me, and then I hated it! I was so shocked. I love this director, [Yorgos Lanthimos,] I love all these actors, how could I hate this movie so much? It might be that I was watching it at home on the small screen, but it felt like it was trying to make this comment on misogyny, but it ended up doing misogyny, for like, three hours. Watching all these men wanting to f--- Emma Stone, who was a baby in a woman’s body, was really uncomfortable.... There’s no denying it was beautiful filmmaking, I just couldn’t get around the men wanting to f--- a baby.

I hated Maestro. Absolutely hated it. If you’re going to tell a story about Leonard Bernstein, why did you pick the least interesting aspect to focus on for so long. If you’re going to go so far with the makeup and prosthetics, God forbid Bradley Cooper cover up his piercing beautiful blue eyes to be accurate. I don’t think Leonard Bernstein had blue eyes. I think he famously did not. That was such an actor’s vanity show.

  1. American Fiction

  2. The Zone of Interest

  3. Past Lives

  4. The Holdovers

  5. Barbie

  6. Anatomy of a Fall

  7. Abstained

  8. Abstained

  9. Abstained

  10. Abstained

<p>Amazon/Orion Pictures</p> Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown in 'American Fiction'

Amazon/Orion Pictures

Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown in 'American Fiction'

Writer: [I'm voting for] Oppenheimer. Everything about it was done to perfection. The screenplay was tight, the actors were terrific, the locations were accurate, all the sets were perfect. Everything about it was just brilliant, and it didn’t lag, there wasn’t a boring moment in it. It was fast-paced.

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Barbie

  3. The Holdovers

  4. Maestro

  5. Abstained

  6. Abstained

  7. Abstained

  8. Abstained

  9. Abstained

  10. Abstained

Actress: The Best Picture of the year for me was [J.A.] Bayona’s Society of the Snow. I know, I know, you may not have watched it because of the topic, but trust me, it’s more than worth it. Of the films up for the award, I voted for American Fiction. In the same way Oppenheimer addresses the existential threat of human extinction at our own hubris-fueled hands, American Fiction speaks to how flummoxed I am with what seems to be the ever-growing stupidity of those who shape our culture and, by default, those who ingest it and ask for more. American Fiction hits the mark on so many levels without losing its heart, hitting us over the head with its message, or ever being anything but utterly entertaining.

  1. American Fiction

  2. The Holdovers

  3. Anatomy of a Fall

  4. Barbie

  5. Oppenheimer

  6. Poor Things

  7. Maestro

  8. Killers of the Flower Moon

  9. Past Lives

  10. The Zone of Interest

Writer: I did not like Maestro. I thought it was more of a put-down of the main character, Leonard Bernstein. I couldn’t hear most of the dialogue, it didn’t center on all the great things he’s done in his life. It centered mostly on his sex addiction. I thought it was a poor movie. Why focus on that when he had so many fabulous things about him? His work with the anti-war movement, the women’s movement, all these things he had participated in, and they didn’t even mention them.

Read the full secret ballot here.

Oscars Flashback

<p>Timothy A. CLARY/AFP via Getty</p>

Timothy A. CLARY/AFP via Getty

"Sir [speaking to music conductor Bill Conti], you're doing a great job, but you're so quick with that stick. So why don't you sit, 'cause I may never be here again.... Steven Soderbergh — hi, there you are: You truly just made me want to be the best actor that I suppose I never knew I could be, or aspire to. And I made every attempt — Stick-man, I see you — so I thank you for really making me feel so... [laughs] I love it up here!"

Check out more from EW's The Awardistfeaturing exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best in TV.

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