Why Only 2 “Killers of the Flower Moon” Indigenous Actors Got SAG Ensemble Nod

The optics are, frankly, terrible: “Killers of the Flower Moon” picked up a much-deserved Screen Actors Guild nomination on Wednesday for Best Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture — and 70% of the lineup are white men.

They included the film’s stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, in addition to secondary actors John Lithgow, Jesse Plemons and Brendan Fraser.

Leading actress Lily Gladstone, who has won raves for her performance as Mollie Burkhart in the Martin Scorsese film, was also cited, as was Tantoo Cardinal, the veteran Canadian actress who plays Mollie’s mother.

Among the performers omitted were Cara Jade Myers (as Mollie’s tragic sister Anna), Tatanka Means (as undercover agent John Wren), Everett Walker (as the Osage Nation chief), Jillian Dion (as Mollie’s sister Minnie), JaNae Collins (as Mollie’s sister Rita), in addition to Talee Redcorn, Yancey Red Corn and the late Larry Sellers, an Osage actor and stuntman.

The reason for this is simple: SAG eligibility rules state that an actor requires “Single-card main title billing” in order to qualify as part of a film’s ensemble cast. The guild makes exceptions in rare cases, such as for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” which was nominated in 2012 despite having all of its main cast’s billing grouped on one title card.

Essentially, in the case of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the SAG Best Performance by a Cast outcome was cemented when the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May. In the closing credits, Gladstone and Cardinal are the only Indigenous actors to receive single-card billing. The two women, significantly, also have the highest caliber of previous acting experience among the Native cast.

Cara Jade Myers, whose tough and sympathetic performance as Anna has garnered praise, is surely an actress with a big future in films and television, but her previous credits appear to have not qualified her for single-card billing.

But surely that is not the outcome that anyone, especially Scorsese or the film’s distributor Apple, wanted. If “Killers of the Flower Moon” wins the SAG ensemble award next month, hopefully Gladstone or Tantoo will accept the prize on behalf of their cast. But Gladstone or Tantoo should be standing along with their full ensemble, not apart from them.

TheWrap has reached out to Apple, the film’s distributor, for a comment.

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