One of 2023’s most anticipated movies, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, is already generating early award-season buzz.
The American epic Western crime drama, is directed and produced by renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Co-written by Scorsese and Eric Roth, the film is based on David Grann’s riveting 2017 book bearing the same title. The plot delves deep into a series of chilling murders that rocked the Osage Nation in Oklahoma during the oil-rich 1920s.
With that, here’s everything we know so far about Killers of the Flower Moon.
Director Martin Scorsese is bringing audiences his first Western with Killers of the Flower Moon. The film is based on the 2017 nonfiction book by journalist David Grann, titled, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and The Birth of the FBI.” The book tells the story of the murder of 20 members of the Osage Tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s.
The film rights to the book were sold in 2016 before the book was even published. However, it was in 2021 that filming of the movie adaptation began. Several directors expressed an interest in the project but were not officially signed on to helm the movie, until Scorsese was brought on board. Production was initially scheduled to start in March 2020, but the pandemic delayed filming until mid-2021.
The principal photography for the film, produced by Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions and DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, was carried out in Osage County and Washington County between Spring and Fall 2021. With a budget of $200 million, it is reportedly the most expensive film ever shot in Oklahoma.
The first teaser trailer for Killers of the Flower Moon dropped on May 18, 2023, on Apple TV’s YouTube channel. It features narration by Leonardo DiCaprio of the origins of the Osage tribe.
The full version of the trailer was released on July 5, 2023, featuring more dialogue from the main characters.
On September 25, 2023, a featurette for Killers of the Flower Moon was released, giving audiences a look behind the scenes of the movie.
Scorsese helmed the movie and co-wrote the script with Eric Roth.
Killers of the Flower Moon Plot
Killers of the Flower Moon is about the plot to kill almost 60 members of the Osage tribe from 1921 to 1925.
When the Osage tribe discovered oil deposits on their land, they were awarded the right to profit. The millions of dollars made from the oil made the Osage Nation one of the wealthiest in the world. It also made the federal government appoint white guardians to “assist” in financial management, causing envy among other communities who weren’t so lucky.
By 1921, the envy escalated into violence when the body of a wealthy Osage woman was discovered in the woods. In 1925, at least 60 wealthy members of the tribe were dead. This led to the involvement of the FBI, led by Agent Tom White, uncovering a plot by cattle rancher William Hale to take control of Osage oil.
Apple posted its official synopsis of Killers of the Flower Moon.
“At the turn of the 20th century, oil brought a fortune to the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth of these Native Americans immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder.
“Based on a true story and told through the improbably romance of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is an epic western crime saga, where real love crosses paths with unspeakable betrayal. Also starring Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese from a screenplay by Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese, based on David Grann’s bestselling book.”
For Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese brought on some familiar faces. Most especially, the director brought on some longtime collaborators. This includes DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
Killers of the Flower Moon would mark De Niro and Scorsese’s 10th time working together, and 11th project overall. The movie would also mark DiCaprio and Scorsese’s sixth film together and seventh project overall.
De Niro plays William Hale, the cattle rancher suspected of organizing hits on wealthy members of the Osage tribe. Meanwhile, DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of De Niro’s character who is faced with a dilemma of where his loyalties lie: His powerful uncle or his Osage wife.
Killers of the Flower Moon also stars Jesse Plemons as FBI agent Tom White, Lily Gladstone as Osage woman Mollie Burkhart, Brendan Fraser as lawyer W.S. Hamilton, and John Lithgow as prosecutor Leaward looking to convict Hale for murder.
Scorsese also sought to work with indigenous actors for the movie and asked the tribe’s permission to film scenes on Osage land. The director also worked closely with Osage tribe film ambassador Chad Renfro and the tribe’s chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.
What to Expect
Chief Standing Bear talked about the collaboration with Scorsese for Killers of the Flower Moon.
“Early on, I asked Mr. Scorsese, how are you going to approach the story? And he said I’m going to tell a story about trust. Trust, trust between Mollie and Ernest, trust between the outside world and the Osage and the betrayal of that trust, deep betrayal. And my people suffered greatly and to this day, this very day, those effects are with us, but I can say on behalf of the Osage, Martin Scorsese and his team have restored trust and we know that trust will not be betrayed,” said the Chief.
Scorsese and DiCaprio made a presentation in February 2021 explaining their intentions toward the story and the themes present. The Osage tribe members were given a chance to express their concerns. DiCaprio also asked questions on how to improve the authenticity of the movie.
Killers of the Flower Moon Release Date
Killers of the Flower Moon is set to premiere in theaters in North America on October 20, 2023. The movie will also be released in IMAX. It was originally supposed to have a limited release on October 6, 2023. Killers of the Flower Moon already premiered in the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2023, out of competition.
As it would be available on Apple TV+, Killers of the Flower Moon will likely premiere on the platform on the same day. However, Apple is teaming up with Paramount to give the movie an exclusive theatrical release on October 20.
Netflix previously distributed Scorsese’s last film, The Irishman, in November 2019. The streaming service also gave the movie a limited theatrical release weeks before it came to Netflix.
This time around, Apple and Paramount intend on giving Killers of the Flower Moon a longer theatrical window. It would make it easier for audiences to watch the movie in theaters compared to The Irishman. Paramount originally sought to distribute the movie on its own. However, due to budget concerns, Scorsese and the studio decided to partner with a streaming platform.
Apple would ultimately acquire the movie.