Killers of The Flower Moon: 18 Things to Know About Scorsese’s $200 Million Western Epic

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On April 29, 2021, Scorsese’s new movie began filming. Is it on track to be ready by the end of the year for retail release?

With “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Martin Scorsese, 78, takes on one of his most ambitious projects yet. A follow-up to his Oscar-nominated tenth feature, “The Irishman,” and his first collaboration with Apple Films on a western, director Martin Scorsese returns to the genre for the first time in “Flower Moon” (yes, of course, Thelma Schoonmaker is editing).

Director Martin Scorsese said he was “thrilled” to begin filming “Killers of the Flower Moon” on April 19, 2021, in a statement. To accurately portray the time and people, we must be able to tell this story on the land where these events occurred.”

Throughout this process, we’re grateful to Apple, the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, and the Osage Nation, especially our Osage consultants and cultural advisors. By collaborating with a talented local cast and crew, we’ll be commemorating an era in American history that should never be forgotten.”

IndieWire has gathered all the information fans of Martin Scorsese’s work need to know about his newest project, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is currently in production. If new details about “Flower Moon” emerge, this post will be updated.

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Brendan Fraser Was Snuck Into the Cast at the Last Minute

Brendan Fraser joined the cast of “Killers of the Flower Moon” at the last minute. On August 3, 2021, Deadline announced that Fraser had been cast in the film. The movie was already in production in Oklahoma at the time. In “Flower Moon,” Fraser will play lawyer WS Hamilton, according to Deadline.

In 2021, there will be a resurgence for the actor. Fraser appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” as part of the ensemble cast (now streaming on HBO Max) and shot Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” earlier this year. Actor Fraser plays an overweight recluse who reunites with his daughter in Aronofsky’s “mother!” sequel.

Fraser’s casting in “Flower Moon” was announced alongside the news that he will appear in Max Barbakow’s new comedy “Brothers,” which he directed in “Palm Springs.” Glenn Close and Josh Brolin will also star in the film. Peter Dinklage will play Fraser’s co-star.

The First Impressions Photo

A photo from the upcoming film “Killers of the Flower Moon” was unveiled by Apple on May 10th, 2021. Ernest Burkhart is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mollie Burkhart is portrayed by Lily Gladstone. In the film, all of the characters are married. It’s also possible to see Jack Fisk’s production design in this first look shot. “Flower Moon” is Martin Scorsese and Fisk’s first collaboration (read more about the production designer below).

A meeting with Osage Nation leaders was held before filming began to ensure that DiCaprio’s character and his portrayal of him were accurate. A press release from the Osage News in February 2021 stated that “several members of the community spoke, sharing their concerns, stories, and thoughts with the film team” during a meeting that month. To better understand DiCaprio, we had to ask him a lot of questions, which sparked a lot of thoughtful discussions.”

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Response from the Osage Nation

Several members of the Osage Nation spoke to The Oklahoman about what it means for a massive production like “Killers of the Flower Moon” to bring back painful memories from the past. Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has been transformed into a 1920s Fairfax by the production.

“I can see both sides of it.” Harrison Shackelford, a member of the Osage Nation, said, “I think this movie is going to bring back a lot of old, bad memories.” Some things will be brought to light that needed to be discussed, some people know and some people don’t,” he said. And I’m confident it will be a success.”

“It’s delicate,” Brandy Lemon, a longtime member of the Osage Nation Congress who serves as a liaison on the film, said.

In any case, it’s a delicate balance that will injure some. Others will applaud it as well. Everything in this film will be obvious to anyone who has seen any of Martin Scorsese’s previous work. Drama, violence, anguish, joy, and all the other strong emotions will be presented to them.

The Original Documentation

David Grann’s nonfiction book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” served as the inspiration for Scorsese’s film. The American journalist’s third book was released on April 18, 2017, and it is her first to be translated into Chinese. After oil was discovered on their land in the 1920s, the Osage people in Osage County, Oklahoma, were plagued by a string of murders.

This book looks into those murders. Because the Osage people had been granted the right to profit from oil discovered on their land, they became the target of greedy ranch owners. FBI agents were called in when the killings became public knowledge. The FBI’s investigation of the murders and the Osage Nation’s struggle for land is expected to be featured in the film adaptation by director Martin Scorsese.

First Western for Scorsese

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” according to Scorsese in a February 2020 interview, is the director’s first film set in the Western genre. In an interview with Premiere, Scorsese said, “We think it’s a Western.” “It occurred in Oklahoma in 1921-1922.

Cowboys indeed exist, but they also have cars and horses. When the Osage tribe was given a terrible piece of land by the government, they cherished it because they believed that the whites would never be interested in it.

A decade or so after the discovery of oil in that region, Osage families enjoyed unprecedented levels of wealth. Vultures disembarked, Europeans arrived and all was lost in the Yukon and Colorado mining regions. There was so much power in the underworld there that killing a dog was more likely to land you in jail than killing an Indian.”

“It’s so fascinating to think about the mentality that leads us to this,” said Scorsese. Mesopotamia is where civilization began. Other people conquer the Hittites, who then vanish and are said to have been assimilated or, more accurately, absorbed.

After two world wars, it’s fascinating to see how this mentality has spread to other cultures. And, as a result, I believe it to be timeless. In this case, “This is the film that we’re going to try to produce.”

A Convergence of Two of His Most Influential Models

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, two of director Martin Scorsese’s greatest inspirations, will appear together in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” They previously worked together in Michael Caton-Jones’ 1993 drama “This Boy’s Life” and in Martin Scorsese’s short film “The Audition,” in which they played fictionalized versions of themselves.

Both De Niro and DiCaprio have appeared in several films by Martin Scorsese: “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” Raging Bull, Casino, The King of Comedy, Cape Fear, and “The Irishman” are among them. As a result of his work in the films “Raging Bull” and “Cape Fear,” Robert De Niro received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor. Both “The Aviator” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” garnered DiCaprio Oscar nominations.

In “Killers of the Flower Moon,” De Niro portrays rancher William Hale, the prime suspect in the FBI’s investigation into the Osage murders. Ernest Burkhart, William’s nephew, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Mollie, played by Lily Gladstone, is Ernest’s Osage wife.

The Supporting Cast

Lily Gladstone, best known for her roles in “Certain Women” and “First Cow,” plays Mollie Burkart in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” one of the film’s supporting characters. After a supporting role in “The Irishman,” Jesse Plemons returns to work with director Martin Scorsese as FBI agent Tom White.

Also in the supporting cast are Scott Shepherd, Pat Healy, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, William Belleau, and Louis Cancelmi. Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson are also Grammy Award winners. When it came to casting the Osage characters, Scorsese was adamant about using only indigenous actors.

Moving to Apple from Paramount

As Paramount did with Scorsese’s “The Irishman” due to the soaring production costs, the studio also did the same with “Killers of the Flower Moon” by selling it to Apple. The rumored $200 million budget for “Flower Moon” wasn’t the only concern for Paramount. At Paramount, DiCaprio was attached to the role of Tom White, an FBI agent.

When it came to portraying DiCaprio’s Ernest Buckhart character, who is both the film’s hero and antagonist, the actor preferred to play the less clear-cut Ernest. The decision to sell Flower Moon to Apple was made because Paramount was concerned that DiCaprio’s more seedy role would make the film less commercially viable. In this case, Apple is the film’s creative studio and financier, while Paramount is its worldwide distributor.

Changes in Script Are Observed Over Time

Jesse Plemons was cast as FBI agent Tom White after DiCaprio was cast as Ernest Buckhart. It was revealed in November 2020 by screenwriter Roth, who said, “Leonardo [DiCaprio] wanted some things changed [in the script] that we argued about. In half of the debates, he prevailed. The majority of them went my way.” By way of explanation, Roth stated that fans can expect to see DiCaprio and Plemons on equal footing.

Plemons is not the main character, according to Roth. “I’d say he was the hero of the story… I believe the roles are fairly balanced, as they have always been, and Leo’s role is particularly complex and intriguing. The role calls for a well-versed performer. Montgomery Clift, for example, might consider playing him if he were still alive.

It was interesting how Leonardo’s role in the film changed as time went on,” Roth said. My opinion is that, in the end, Marty made the right decisions and we all had our moments of figuring out how best to portray things because of the impact of the story.

Rodrigo Prieto

Martin Scorsese and Rodrigo Prieto will team up once again on “Killers of the Flower Moon,” their fourth film together. The Wolf of Wall Street was the first collaboration between the two artists, and “Silence” and “The Irishman” were their subsequent collaborations.

The latter two movies earned Prieto Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, as did his work on Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Considering Prieto shot the Western romance “Brokeback Mountain” and the Western drama “The Homesman,” he should be an extra asset to Scorsese as the director embarks on his first Western drama.

Prieto has also shot films for Spike Lee (“25th Hour”), Julie Taymor (“Frida”), Oliver Stone (“Alexander”), Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel,” etc.), Pedro Almodóvar (“Broken Embraces”), and Ben Affleck (“The Town”), among others.

Killers of The Flower Moon
Killers of The Flower Moon

It’s Not a Martin Scorsese Film Without Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson, best known for being the lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band, has been working with Scorsese since the director’s 1978 The Band concert documentary “The Last Waltz.”

Since then, Robertson has worked on Scorsese’s films “Raging Bull” (music producer), “The King of Comedy” (music producer), “The Color of Money” (composer), “Casino” (music consultant), “Gangs of New York” (executive music producer), “The Departed” (music producer), “Shutter Island” (music supervisor”), “The World of Wall Street” (executive music producer), “Silence” (executive music producer), and “The Irishman” (executive music producer, musical director, musician) (executive music producer, musical director, musician).

He’s back for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” telling Rolling Stone in 2020 that he was spending most of the pandemic thinking about music for the Western drama.

A New Craft Member in Jack Fisk

Apple confirmed with IndieWire last month that legendary production designer Jack Fisk is on board for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which will mark the first collaboration between Scorsese and Fisk. The production designer has previously worked with David Lynch, Terrence Malick, and Paul Thomas Anderson, making this a noteworthy pairing.

The first was for Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” and the second was for Alejandro González Iárritu’s “The Revenant.” Fisk has been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Production Design.

Badlands, The Thin Red Line, Mulholland Drive, The New World, The Tree of Life, “The Master,” and “To the Wonder” are just a few of Fisk’s other notable films and television projects. “Flower Moon” will mark Fisk’s first feature film job since Malick’s 2017 drama “Song to Song.”

Eric Roth

Eric Roth worked on the screenplay for “Killers of the Flower Moon” for nearly half a decade before the film finally went into production. The writer won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with “Forrest Gump” before landing four more nominations in the category thanks to “The Insider,” “Munich,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “A Star Is Born.”

For his work as a producer on David Fincher’s “Mank” and as a writer on Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” adaptation, Roth was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Picture category most recently.

Roth said last month about “Flower Moon,” “I just think [Scorsese] is going to make — and I would say this — but I think [of] all my work, this one could be one of the great movies. I mean that. I don’t want to jinx it, but the story is so important that I believe it has all the ingredients.

Working Closely with Osage Nation

Scorsese spent the year leading up to filming “Killers of the Flower Moon” visiting the Osage Nation in Oklahoma to better learn about their culture and to work with their leaders to accurately depict the Osage people in the film. Chief of the Osage Nation Geoffrey Standing Bear is one of the leading consultants on “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Scorsese also worked closely with the Osage Nation’s film ambassador Chad Renfro.

DiCaprio joined Scorsese in February 2021 for a meeting with Standing Bear and Renfro in which they made a presentation of the overall intention of the film, particularly highlighting the themes of trust and betrayal, how ultimately the story of Mollie Kyle and Ernest Burkhart is a microcosm of the wider betrayal of the Osage people.

Standing Bear issued the following statement to mark the start of production in April 2021: “In recent meetings with Oklahoma Senators and House of Representative Members, I made the point of how much their support for the movie industry has made a difference. Many Oklahomans, including the Sovereign Nations, benefit directly from this thriving and lucrative industry.

It promotes financial opportunities and cultural recognition for all. An important factor in the success of this film was the support of the Osage Nation and state funding from Oklahoma. All of our hard work has finally paid off, and we can enjoy this fantastic film right now!”

Recovering from “The Irishman”

Scorsese admitted to fans in December 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic had taken a toll on his creativity, delaying production on “Killers of the Flower Moon” by more than one year. For his new film, “I must find a way to return to a singular creative impulse as I had for ‘Irishman,'” the filmmaker stated in an interview with Empire. I want to get back to working alone on a project, wondering if I can do it again, without the distraction of award ceremonies.

Scorsese said, “With ‘Irishman,’ we achieved what I wanted to do.” My opinion on whether it’s great, good, or bad isn’t clear. I’m confident that I could sit through it. What I’m trying to say is that I’ll have to go back and rediscover what initially piqued my interest. I’m not sure if I can do that. It is, however, now almost mandatory to go and find it because of the pandemic.

Life as we know it is no longer possible. You must have something. You have family and friends you care about, as well as what you hope will be a rekindled creative spark for a new film. However, ‘Irishman’ is the one that I keep returning to. “Irishman” has been on my mind. “Irishman” is a term I use to… As a teaching tool, I drew from that experience.”

Something tells us that Scorsese has rediscovered his mojo now that filming has begun.

The Long Delay to Starting Filming

“Killers of the Flower Moon” was supposed to begin filming in March 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic halted production. To begin filming as soon as possible in February or March of 2021, the Osage Nation began preparations in August of this year. Pre-production was delayed due to the pandemic, which necessitated the arrival of large construction crews in Oklahoma to begin setting up the sets. According to Apple, production officially began on April 19.

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To aid in the fight against the pandemic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro launched a fundraising campaign in which the highest donor received a walk-on role in the film “Killers of the Flower Moon.” During the height of the pandemic, DiCaprio helped to establish America’s Food Fund, which aims to ensure that every family in need has access to food during the epidemic.

At the time, DiCaprio announced on social media, “If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work with the great Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and myself, this is your chance.” The winner was given an invitation to the film’s world premiere and a day on the set.

The Release Date Has Not Been Announced

Killers of the Flower Moon” has yet to receive an official release date from Apple. The start of production is scheduled for the end of April 2021, with a projected runtime of the summer. If Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker can deliver a cut quickly enough, the movie might be ready for a holiday release in December 2021. A release date for the film is more likely to be set for 2022.

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