At 80, with several of the most iconic films in American cinema history under his belt, Martin Scorsese could retire today as an undisputed master of film. But the director’s upcoming project, Killers of the Flower Moon, might be his most ambitious yet, a period crime epic about indigenous people based on a best-selling book that’s been in the works for more than half a decade.
To make the movie, Scorsese re-teamed with not one but two of his main leading men, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, and brought in Jesse Plemons and recent Oscar winner Brendan Fraser as well. The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by acclaimed journalist David Grann, who investigated a series of grisly murders of prominent members of the Osage nation who controlled oil-rich land in 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma . The killings catch the attention of the recently created FBI, eventually leading to the conviction of prominent local cattleman Bill Hale (De Niro). Plemons, who previously worked with Scorsese on The Irishman, will play Tom White, the local lawman who solved the case. (DiCaprio was originally going to play White.) Music stars Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson will have supporting roles, and the film will feature a number of indigenous actors, including Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, and Tatanka Means.
The Cannes Film Festival confirmed on March 31 that Killers of the Flower Moon will premiere at this year’s event. It will be Scorsese’s first Cannes debut in nearly 40 years. Apple, the company’s distributor, will give Flower Moon a theatrical release despite as part of the company’s effort to make inroads into cinemas. (Apple plans to “spend $1 billion a year” on theatrical releases, according to Bloomberg.)
Grann’s writing has been turned into feature films before, from his books—most notably James Gray’s exploration epic The Lost City of Z—to his essays and reporting, like David Lowery’s crime biopic The Old Man & the Gun. Scorsese wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth, who won an Academy Award for his work on Forrest Gump.
Scorsese talked in a 2019 interview about how he approached the adaptation: “It’s convenient to do a sort of detective story, but we all know what that is. So I want to explore something else, and that is the nature of a whole way of thinking as being complicit in genocide. It’s dehumanizing people,” he said.
“I know Marty’s trying to make a movie that’s probably the last Western that would be made like this, and yet, with this incredible social document underneath it, and the violence and the environment,” Roth said in a separate interview. “I think it’ll be like nothing we’ve ever seen, in a way.”
Flower Moon is rumored to have cost $200 million, which is close to the reported cost of The Irishman, which Netflix greenlit when it was lavishing funding on pricey auteur projects. Paramount initially bought the film, but sold it to Apple.
Killers of the Flower Moon will debut at Cannes on May 20 and in theaters on October 6.