Exploring a Challenging Narrative
Martin Scorsese, the renowned Oscar-winning filmmaker, delves into the intricacies of his latest cinematic venture, Killers of the Flower Moon. In this article, we’ll journey through Scorsese’s insights into the film’s challenging subject matter, casting decisions, and his reunion with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
Navigating an Actor’s Strike
Amid an ongoing actors’ strike, the responsibility of promoting Killers of the Flower Moon fell squarely on the shoulders of the living legend, Martin Scorsese. This critically acclaimed true-life drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone, made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. However, limited time and an influx of interview requests meant that Scorsese’s participation in promotional activities needed to be judiciously managed.
The narrative of Killers of the Flower Moon draws inspiration from David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction best-seller, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and The Birth of the FBI.” This gripping source material served as the foundation for Scorsese and co-scriptwriter Eric Roth as they embarked on their cinematic adaptation.
The film, set in 1920s Oklahoma, provides an expansive portrayal of the “Reign of Terror” that afflicted the newly oil-rich Osage Native Americans. The plot revolves around DiCaprio’s character, Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of the ruthless cattleman, William Hale (De Niro), who embroils his nephew in a perilous land-grabbing scheme. Among the victims is Lily Gladstone’s character, Mollie, an Osage woman who inherits an oil fortune.
Here are some key takeaways from Martin Scorsese’s reflections on the making of Killers of the Flower Moon:
1. Embracing a True Story
Scorsese acknowledges his limited awareness of Native American history and culture in his earlier years. With the aim of respectful and authentic storytelling, he turned to David Grann’s book as a guide. His commitment to portraying the Osage culture with integrity led to the inclusion of cultural elements, rituals, and spiritual moments in the film.
2. Balancing the FBI Story
Initially, the script was primarily based on the birth of the FBI, as indicated by Grann’s book’s subtitle. However, Scorsese and Roth felt the need to balance this narrative with the Osage perspective. This shift in focus allowed them to explore the complicity and sin by omission within the story, emphasizing the complexity of the historical events.
3. The Casting of Lily Gladstone
Scorsese was captivated by Lily Gladstone’s performance in “Certain Women,” directed by Kelly Reichardt. Despite the pandemic’s initial disruptions, their Zoom meeting left a strong impression on him. Her intelligence and emotional depth, combined with her commitment to activism, made her the ideal choice for the role of Mollie. Scorsese highlights the authenticity she brings to her character, making her a pivotal element in the film’s storytelling.
4. Working with De Niro and DiCaprio
Scorsese’s enduring collaboration with Robert De Niro and his later partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio are marked by trust and creative freedom. The director and actors share a unique bond that goes beyond their age difference. Their creative synergy allows them to experiment, adapt, and bring out the best in each other. This trust and openness have been instrumental in crafting memorable scenes and characters in their shared cinematic journey.
Killers of the Flower Moon is not merely a historical drama; it’s a testament to the director’s commitment to authentic storytelling and his ability to collaborate with exceptional talent. Scorsese’s insights offer a glimpse into the intricate web of creative choices and historical accuracy that have shaped this highly anticipated film.