Following his work on The Irishman, director Martin Scorsese is enlisting two familiar collaborators for his next film: Actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are set to star in Scorsese’s adaptation of the David Grann non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon.
DiCaprio has previously worked with Scorsese on Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street, earning multiple Academy Award nominations for Best Actor along the way. De Niro just worked with Scorsese for the first time in over 20 years with The Irishman after previously collaborating on iconic movies like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Casino, and Raging Bull.
The new film is set in the 1920s and follows one of the first major homicide investigations of the FBI, which focused on a mysterious group of murders of members of the Osage nation who struck rich on oil they found in Oklahoma. The story goes much deeper than that though, as it involves a major conspiracy that Grann uncovered as he wrote his book.
Here’s what we know so far about the Killers of the Flower Moon:
What It’s About: The main crux of the story follows the investigation into a series of murders of wealthy Osage native Americans in Osage County, Oklahoma through the 1920s. At the time, these Osage nation members had become some of the wealthiest people in the entire United States after discovering oil on their land, giving them the ability to build mansions, buy expensive cars, and hire staff. But then, one by one, the rich Osage native Americans are found shot or poisoned, drawing attention from a branch of the Justice Department that was then called the Bureau of Investigation—later named the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This was one of the first major cases the FBI worked on, with director J. Edgar Hoover sending a team of investigators led by a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to find out what happened. While the team did end up catching one of the culprits, Grann’s book uncovers a larger conspiracy that the FBI never fully discovered.
What Scorsese Says: The director spoke about the project in an interview with Premiere following the Oscars, saying that the movie with likely be a “Western” in tone: “We think it’s a Western. It happened in 1921-1922 in Oklahoma,” Scorsese said. “There are certainly cowboys, but they have cars and also horses. The film is mainly about the Osage, an Indian tribe that was given horrible territory, which they loved because they said to themselves that Whites would never be interested in it. Then we discovered oil there and, for about ten years, the Osage became the richest people in the world, per capita. Then, as with the Yukon and the Colorado mining regions, the vultures disembark, the White man, the European arrives, and all was lost. There, the underworld had such control over everything that you were more likely to go to jail for killing a dog than for killing an Indian.
The Actors and Characters: DiCaprio is set as the lead of the film and will be playing the former Texas Ranger named Tom White, the leader of the investigation into the Osage murders. In a funny coincidence, DiCaprio previously played FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s 2011 film J Edgar. De Niro is expected to play cattleman William Hale, who was discovered to have ordered some of the murders of the Osage to gain access to their oil and wealth. No other cast has yet been announced.
The Cinematographer: Scorsese’s frequent collaborator Rodrigo Prieto will be the cinematographer on the film after working with the director on Wolf of Wall Street, Silence, and The Irishman. In an interview with Collider in December, Prieto said that he recently was in Oklahoma doing camera tests ahead of the production of the film: “Right now I’m in the process of researching different ways of shooting it,” Prieto said. “So [Scorsese and I], I’ll show him images, propose ideas. He’ll probably have his thoughts too, but we still haven’t figured [out the tone of the film]. So, on the way.”
The Production Designer: Along with Prieto, Scorsese has another familiar collaborator along for the ride with production designer Dante Ferretti, who has worked with the director on films like The Aviator, Casino, Hugo, Shutter Island, and The Age of Innocence. Ferretti was in Oklahoma in June 2019 doing research for the film. “We had a group from Mr. Scorsese’s artistic team here a couple of weeks ago to do research, look around and ask questions, making sure they got things right,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear to the Tulsa World in June.
Scorsese Has Been Scouting Locations Himself: Scorsese took some time during post-production on The Irishman to do some location scouting himself in Osage County, Oklahoma in Summer 2019. Here’s a look at Scorsese in action from posts on his Instagram page:
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Scorsese Wants to Collaborate With the Osage Nation: During his location scouting visits in July 2019, Scorsese met with Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation (see a photo of the two here) to speak about the film and how the two sides can collaborate to create accuracy in the film.
“We want to make sure your people have everything they need, in terms of Osage artisans, Osage language … those people are still here in the community and would love to help,” Standing Bear said to Osage News at the time. “We are very thankful you are here and that you are willing to tell this story. We [said] that we want them to film here and that we can provide many things, from Osage-language speakers to crafts people to warehouse space to whatever.”
The Writers: David Grann wrote the book Killers of the Flower Moon, while Academy Award-winning writer Eric Roth wrote the script for the movie. Grann is no stranger to seeing his historical non-fiction become a movie, as he previously wrote The Lost City of Z, which was made into a 2017 feature film directed by James Gray starring Charlie Hunnam,Tom Holland, and Robert Pattinson. Grann also wrote the article that was the basis for the 2018 Robert Redford crime film The Old Man & the Gun.
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