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Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon": A true story of love and evil

Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”: A true story of love and evil

طوبیٰ Tooba 9 months ago 0 5

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On the plains northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where oil rigs outnumber the bison, lies a stain so dark, it makes the crude look crystal-clear – a tragically-true tale of man’s inhumanity to man that’s hitting the big screen this week.

Oscar-winners Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and a relative newcomer, Lily Gladstone, teamed up with Apple Original Films to bring David Grann’s bestselling book “Killers of the Flower Moon” to life. “Trying to be as truthful as possible is the only way to tell these stories,” said DiCaprio.

Grann spent a decade researching his book on which the film is based. “We’re talking about scores of murders, and we’re talking about a very small population,” he said.

As director Martin Scorsese notes, “It’s not who done it, it’s who didn’t do it.”

The film (which opens in theaters October 20) is a sweeping epic, three-and-a-half hours long, shot on location on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma. It was there, in 2017, where Grann described to “Sunday Morning” how each thread he pulled in his research took him down a darker road: “This is a story that has real evil in it, evil like I’ve never covered or ever experienced or researched about before in my life.” That evil showed up when the money did. 

From 2017: David Grann talks about the murders of Osage in “Killers of the Flower Moon”:


From the archives: The Osage murders and “Killers of the Flower Moon” by
CBS Sunday Morning on
YouTube

The Osage land was long thought to be worthless. But in 1920s oil was discovered there, which almost overnight made the Osage among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. Like a magnet, their newfound prosperity attracted outsiders – white men mostly – who came not just to bilk the Osage out of their oil money, but to inherit it.

“The only way you could get their money was to marry into their families, and then to slowly target them,” said Grann.

At an Osage cemetery in Gray Horse lies the evidence that entire families were wiped out – either shot, blown up, drugged, or poisoned.

osage-cemetery.jpg
The graves of Mollie Burkhart Cobb and her murdered family members.  

CBS News


Ernest Burkhart wormed his way into the Osage family tree by marrying an Osage woman named Molly in 1917. Their real-life love affair, as troubled as it was, is where the film begins.

Scorsese said, “The heart of the entire situation is, love, the trust that goes with love, and then this extraordinary betrayal, and still [be] loving. Now, how do we do that?”

The short answer? Carefully. 


Killers of the Flower Moon — “Handsome Devil” Clip by
Apple TV on
YouTube

“We did our absolute best to listen to the Osage community,” DiCaprio said. “I don’t know if we did a perfect job. Who knows? But they embraced us and were so incredibly helpful and so vulnerable.”

Principal Chief of the Osage Nation Geoffrey M. Standing Bear knows the risks of letting Hollywood in: “Native Americans have always had someone else tell the story about us, but we wanted to tell our story,” he said.

When “Sunday Morning” spoke with the cast and crew back in July, they were all on that same page, especially Martin Scorsese: “You deal with Native Americans and Indigenous people, you gotta make sure everything we do, everything we do, is as authentic, as accurate, or at least as reasonably accurate from what can be remembered, as possible, and respectful.”

Killers of the Flower Moon
Director Martin Scorsese with actors Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of “Killers of the Flower Moon.” 

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures/Apple Original Films


To that end, he hired as many Osage as possible, both in front of and behind the camera. Chief Standing Bear acknowledged, “They really worked hard at this and earned our respect.”

Cowan asked, “You felt comfortable with the way they were going to approach it?”

“If you’re not comfortable with Martin Scorsese, you’re not going to be comfortable with anybody!” Standing Bear replied.

DiCaprio’s co-star, Lily Gladstone (“Certain Women”), has critics raving. She grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.

“She brought so much to, not only her character, but to the entire film,” DiCaprio said. “She was an amazing partner to have.”

lily-gladstone-leonardo-dicaprio-a.jpg
Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio.

CBS News


Gladstone got emotional upon hearing her acting partner say that. “I guess I could try to choke it down and put it somewhere else, but why?” she said. “It is [emotional]. It is. It’s a big responsibility and it’s terrifying. It’s hard being a Native actor having this sort of, this much that you can audition for. Marty showed me what’s possible.”

The film called for her to speak fluent Osage. DiCaprio and De Niro had to master that language, too. “It wasn’t easy,” DiCaprio admitted.

“I mean, you did an incredible job,” Gladstone said. “You also did an incredible job of doing it the way a white man would say it!”

“That’s my job!” he laughed.

For Hollywood trivia buffs, this is the first time that DiCaprio has worked with De Niro and Scorsese on the same film at the same time. “The two of them are so incredible together,” DiCaprio said. “Their shorthand, the way they communicate, it’s almost through sign language. It’s nods, and, ‘I know, I know.’ I mean, it’s incredible to watch!”

Cowan asked Scorsese, “[Leo] said that you have sort of a shorthand with Robert De Niro. What do you have with Leo?”

“Uh, a longhand,” the director laughed.

DiCaprio agreed: “With me, it’s long discussions, grinding things, lots of rehearsals.”

dicaprio-de-niro-scorsese.jpg
Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese during filming of “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Paramount Pictures/Apple Original Films


For David Grann, seeing all of it come together was both satisfying and a bit mesmerizing. “My world is not in Hollywood at all,'” he said. “I am a nerd 24 hours a day!”

“Sunday Morning” caught up with him just before the film debuted for the Osage in Tulsa back in July. “The idea that we’re standing here and there’s going to be a film, and more and more people are going to learn about the history, to me that is what is so powerful and remarkable about it,” Grann said.

He ended his book with a conversation he recalled having with an elderly Osage woman. As she looked out across the plains she quoted scripture: The blood cries out from the ground.  

All these years later, perhaps those cries are finally being heard. 

READ AN EXCERPT: “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann

To watch a trailer for “Killers of the Flower Moon” click on the video player below:


Killers of the Flower Moon | Official Trailer 2 (2023 Movie) by
Paramount Pictures on
YouTube

For more info:

       
Story produced by Jason Sacca. Editor: Remington Korper. 

     
See also: 

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