After years of anticipation, Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited “Killers of the Flower Moon” finally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. The film, which tells the story of the reign of terror that saw a number of wealthy Osage Nation members murdered in the 1920s, had been a passionate project of Scorsese’s for years before it was set to shoot in 2021. Production was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were also significant creative changes that stalled the project.
Scorsese and his co-writer Eric Roth originally envisioned the film as a procedural following the FBI investigation into the murders. But the creative team quickly realized that the film needed to put the Osage Nation front and center.
Speaking to press after the film’s Cannes premiere, Scorsese – joined by cast members Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone – recalled the lengthy development process and the moment he learned the script needed to be reworked.
“We touched on it after Eric Roth and I and all of us together tried to frame the story from the perspective of the incoming Bureau of Investigation,” Scorsese said. “And I said ‘I think the public is ahead of us. They know it’s not a whodunit, it’s who didn’t.
Scorsese explained that DiCaprio was ultimately slated to play FBI agent Tom White, the role ultimately going to Jesse Plemons. But both DiCaprio and Scorsese quickly realized that the human story of how the murders impacted the Osage was more interesting than the book’s procedural aspects.
“At one point, after two years of working on the script, Leo came to me. And he was going to play Tom White, played by Jesse, and he was like ‘where is the heart of this story? And I had a few encounters with the Osage,” she said. “And I learned a lot about them in those three hours. I learned about the people who settled and the histories. They are all related to each other. , and there’s still relationships and there’s still problems and so-and-so is in love… and it keeps going. And I said ‘here’s the story.’
Once a new angle was established, Scorsese says the decision to bring Gladstone’s Mollie Burkhart to the fore and cast DiCaprio as her evil husband Ernest was a natural one.
“The story is in the character that is least written about,” he said. “Ernest. And, of course, that’s what Leo wanted to do. He said let’s try to find out where Ernest is and create Ernest as a model for that tragedy of love, trust and betrayal of indigenous people.