Actor William Belleau is not intimidated by the company he’s been keeping, even if his coworkers include Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese.
Belleau spoke to Black Press Media from his home in Vancouver, as the Oscar buzz continues to build around the film Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Scorsese, and starring Di Caprio, Robert De Niro and many others. The film chronicles the true story of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma and a conspiracy to take control of the wealth and oil rights of an Osage family.
Belleau played Henry Roan, an Osage husband and father.
“You’d think I’d be nervous, but it was completely the opposite,” he said, recounting how calm he felt at his first red carpet event when the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023.
After the film showed, a camera was capturing the reactions of the director and cast as the audience gave a standing ovation for nine minutes. The reactions were being projected onto the movie screen.
Watching all of this happen, Belleau said he thought to himself, if the camera turned on him, he would weep.
“So I took this deep breath that went right into the Earth and what came out is what we saw on the internet,” recalled Belleau.
He said he was thinking of his father Dave Belleau telling him to “show them your soul son” and he let out a long warrior call. The call then went viral on social media.
“It wouldn’t stop coming out, it just kept rolling,” recalled Belleau, of the moment, which was then shared thousands of times. He now said he feels pride in showing himself letting go in the moment and tapping into his spirit.
Since the premiere, the film has continued to gain momentum. Lily Gladstone, who costars alongside Di Caprio, made history as the first Indigenous woman to win a Golden Globe for her role in the film.
Belleau also attended the Gotham Awards in New York City this January for the film.
“It was surreal,” said Belleau of walking into the awards in a Wall Street eatery.
He said he saw Steven Yeung and Ali Wong, from the Netflix series Beef, and just decided to go speak to them.
He and Wong admitted to each other it was both their first awards.
The journey from the remote community of Esket (Alkali Lake), 45 minutes south of Williams Lake, to film premieres and festivals alongside A-list actors has been a long haul for Belleau, who has put in over 20 years of work to get to where he is now.
But Belleau connects it all back to sitting in the Paradise Cinemas in Williams Lake, watching movies as a young man growing up.
Epic films like Braveheart, Lord of the Rings and Saving Private Ryan had given him a lifetime longing to be a part of an ensemble cast like those he watched onscreen. Now, arriving on red carpets as part of the cast of Killers of the Flower Moon next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, Belleau is right where he always wanted to be.
“It felt like home in there, I didn’t feel like an imposter,” explained Belleau.
He then recounts a story he told to Sandra Oh, from Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve, in which his mom, Marilyn Belleau, gave him support, but kept him grounded.
Watching a werewolf film as a child, a young William told his mom “Hey mom, I want to play a werewolf.”
His mom responded: “Son, I accept you as a werewolf, but when you’re done I want my son back.”
This unwavering support and love from his parents has been the foundation from which he has maintained his belief in himself and enabled him to continue to pursue his calling to be an actor.
Dave Belleau and Marilyn Belleau both supported him, throughout the many years of attending auditions and being rejected.
William said he estimates he did not get 84 per cent of the roles he went out for, but his parents still did not try to talk him out of continuing to work towards his dream.
“I look around and parents are always cautioning their kids, but my mom, whenever I didn’t get that 30th audition, she’d say ‘Well you just need to build your body of work.’”
Then she would give him things to work on.
His father also encouraged him to follow his dream from the beginning. It was his father Dave, who he went to for advice in playing Henry Roan in the epic true tale of an Osage family in Oklahoma for Killers of the Flower Moon.
Both of his parents are residential school survivors, and so he asked his dad about the character he was to play, Henry Roan, who had lost so many family members during this terrible time.
“Henry is searching for Henry,” Belleau recalls his father telling him.
Belleau said he was still intimidated to play a member of a family who had experienced so much loss but then he met the family of the man he was to portray onscreen. He told them his father was a residential school survivor and how he saw the character.
“They were so welcoming,” he said of the family, and they honoured what his dad said.
“That was a big checkmark,” he said. When he asked surviving elder family member John Williams how many family members he had lost in the conspiracy, he replied around 60. Belleau described the role as a “constant state of grief” and admitted none of it was easy.
Speaking about the role, it is clear he was immersed in it completely for the film.
“I feel like I’m just getting started,” Belleau said of his career, despite his two decades of work already.
Now at 41, William refers to Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro as “Marty” and “Bob” and he laughs over the two Hollywood icons referring to him as “kid”
For years, William said he felt left out, but he came to recognize this was based on a desire to be part of an ensemble.
He told his mom when he had this realization and she told him to write down his goals, which included working with an Academy Award-winner. This came to fruition when he worked with Sir Anthony Hopkins on a movie in Vernon called Blackway, released in 2015.
“I’ve been upgrading myself every day for twenty-some years,” said Belleau.
Belleau’s last project was a role in Disney’s Marvel series in Echo. His next project is yet to be revealed publicly.
He now also tries to fill in gaps between roles working with youth and public speaking, hoping to inspire them to follow their purpose, something he said he loves doing.
“You don’t know what you have waiting for you,” he said, noting he had 13 years after acting school to prepare for a role in a Martin Scorsese film, but he didn’t know it.
“So what are you, or are you not, preparing for? The big game is coming.”
Anyone interested in getting in touch with William Belleau for youth engagement can reach out to his publicist email@example.com.
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