After seven months of a stop and start production, Martin Scorsese’s new project “Killers of the Flower Moon”, is set to continue filming later this month.With an estimated $200 million budget, the film could be Scorsese’s most expensive production to date and one of the highest-budgeted original dramas ever made.
Based on the best-selling non-fiction novel by journalist David Grann, the film will follow the investigation into the countless murders of wealthy Osage people in the 1920s. The Osage Native Americans became targets by murderers and extortionists after they were awarded legal rights and made profits from oil deposits found on their land in Oklahoma.
The story centres around a forgotten chapter in American history, where greed and debauchery reigned while colonials took out the Osage people, one by one. The film will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, who will be reuniting on screen since DiCaprio’s film debut in “This Boy’s Life.” The project is a long time coming as it’s been in development since 2017 and has been repeatedly pushed back due to the pandemic. As the film’s shooting schedule has been delayed, Scorsese admitted to Empire Magazine in December last year, he has benefitted from the lengthy development.
“I feel as we’re playing with it now, it’s had a layer in, along with the actual main characters, of that sense that everybody is on (the collusion).” Scorsese admitted. “In any event, it’s given us time to read more, and do more with costumes, locations, the structure of the buildings, houses, types of rooms.”
The 78-year-old filmmaker said the lockdown helped “eliminate” a lot of distractions while working on the film. Though he initially felt the pandemic interrupted his creative flow, he used the excess time hold virtual castings and fine-tune the script, while the crew scouted shooting locations in Tulsa, Bartlesville and Osage County. Scorsese’s long-time cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto said the production would take extreme safety measures as the director suffers from asthma. Prieto who collaborated with Scorsese on “Silence” and “The Irishman”, told Vanity Fair,
“Certainly, (‘Killers of the Flower Moon’) will be very delicate because, well, even Martin Scorsese as a director, he has asthma,” Prieto said. “So, we have to be very careful with him.”
But the halted production isn’t the only reason for the turbulent shoot, as creative differences have arisen too. The film’s screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Star is Born, Dunes) said on Script Notes that he and Leonardo DiCaprio have had disagreements over the film’s script.
“They’ll be continuing rewrites with that. Leonardo (DiCaprio) wanted some things changed that we argued about. He won half of (the arguments). I won half of them. So that’s happening.”
In Roth’s initial version of the film, DiCaprio was starring as the hero – a federal agent working under the newly established FBI, who leads the Osage Oklahoma murders investigation. However, DiCaprio revised the script to play the nephew of the villainous killer, portrayed by Robert De Niro. The film was initially set to be released by Paramount, however, due to creative differences – largely to do with DiCaprio’s role and how it would impact the commercial appeal of the film, it will now be released by Apple TV+.
“The Killers of Flower Moon” production is also expected to employ many Native American cast and crew members. Scorsese met with Geoffrey Standing Bear, principal chief of the Osage Nation in 2019 to assure he would create a film the Osage people will be “proud of”.
Chad Renfro who is serving as an Osage Nation ambassador to the film said Standing Bear has offered his language department as a resource to ensure the film portrays the Osage people as “accurately as possible”, he told Tulsa World.
“I understand it’s a movie. But we don’t want the Osage just to be a bunch of dead bodies lying around.”
Standing Bear said he was excited about the new film project as it holds a crucial message about corruption and exploitation.
“I would like to see people remember that there are good people and bad people, and if you let the bad people dominate, then people can be complicit in evil things,” he said.
“People can be complicit in good things. You can see that anywhere, but here, in this area, it was such a highlight because of the money that was, and somewhat still is, around and people taking advantage of weaker people and how those who want to be selfish can end up dominating and get away with it.
“Remember, those murders were going on for a long time before the FBI broke up that one murder ring and some of those murder rings continued after — well after. The Osage know this.”
The release date is yet to be announced.