Martin Scorsese overhauled script when he realised he was ‘making a movie about all the white guys’

Film tells the story of the Osage Indian murders in the 1920s

Tom Murray
Wednesday 13 September 2023 21:55 BST
Killers of the Flower Moon trailer

Martin Scorsese has admitted to overhauling the script for his forthcoming movie Killers of the Flower Moon, after realising he was “making a movie about all the white guys”.

The Western true-crime thriller is an adaption of David Grann’s 2017 non-fiction book, which documented the murders that plagued the Osage Indian tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s after oil was found on their land. The case was deemed the FBI’s first homicide investigation.

It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart, who arrived in Fairfax, Oklahoma, and married Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone) at the behest of his uncle, William Hale (Robert De Niro).

“After a certain point, I realised I was making a movie about all the white guys,” Scorsese, 80, told Time magazine in a new interview. “Meaning I was taking the approach from the outside in, which concerned me.”

DiCaprio, 48, was originally set to play FBI agent Tom White, who investigated the murders; however, the role was recast (given to Jesse Plemons) after the pair realised that Burkart and Kyle’s relationship should be the core of the movie.

The veteran director praised Gladstone (who is of Blackfeet and Nimíipuu heritage), 37, and her performance, saying there is “a fierceness and serenity at the same time. And it’s encased in this intelligence – the eyes say it all”.

Scorsese and his team worked closely with Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and his office, the director’s consulting producer Chad Renfro told Time, and hundreds of Osage were involved in making the film. “The first day of filming, we had an elder, Archie Mason, come and say a prayer,” Renfro said.

Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

In a five-star review for The Independent, critic Clarisse Loughrey observed how Killers of the Flower Moon carries Scorsese’s “tradition fixations: the rotted core of man’s heart; how power breeds the impulse for destruction; the myths of cowboys and outlaws and the dirty truth to them”.

She also singled out Gladstone’s performance as “one of the most extraordinary performances by a woman in any of Scorsese’s movies”.

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“She is serene but not saintly; a figure of tragedy with fire in her belly,” Loughrey writes. “The first time we dive into Mollie’s perspective, it’s with a force that could suck the breath out of your body.”

In a recent interview with Vulture, Gladstone pillorised Taylor Sheridan’s hit neo-Western drama series Yellowstone, which features some Native American characters alongside its cast of wealthy white ranch owners, calling it “deplorable”.

She did not elaborate on her views, and said she meant “no offence to the Native talent in” the show.

Speaking about her role in Flower Moon, Gladstone said she felt more comfortable after realising Scorses’s project was “not a white saviour story”.

“It’s the Osage saying, ‘Do something. Here’s money. Come help us,’” she said, adding: “It was clear that I wasn’t just going to be given space to collaborate. I was expected to bring a lot to the table.”

Killers of the Flower Moon will be released on 6 October, before streaming globally on Apple TV+.

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