After much anticipation, filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s highly awaited film Killers of the Flower Moon finally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.
The movie, which depicts the Reign of Terror during the 1920s when several wealthy members of the Osage Nation were murdered, had been a passion project for Scorsese for many years before production began in 2021.
During a press conference following the Cannes premiere of Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese, accompanied by his cast members Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone, spoke about the extensive development process and the moment when they decided to rework the script.
“We discussed it after Eric Roth and I, along with everyone else, tried to express the story from the perspective of the Bureau of Investigation,” Scorsese said. “But I felt the audience was ahead of us. They knew it wasn’t a whodunnit; it was about who didn’t do it.”
Scorsese explained that initially, DiCaprio was set to portray FBI agent Tom White, a role eventually played by Jesse Plemons. However, both DiCaprio and Scorsese came to the realization that the human story of how the murders affected the Osage people was more captivating than the procedural elements of the narrative.
“After two years of working on the script, Leo approached me. He was going to play Tom White, which Jesse now portrays, and he asked, ‘Where is the heart of this story?'” Scorsese recalled.
“I had met with the Osage during that time and learned a great deal about them in those three hours. I discovered their settlement, their interconnected stories, ongoing relationships, love affairs, and so on. That’s where the story lies.”
Once they settled on this new perspective, Scorsese stated that it was a natural decision to bring Lily Gladstone’s character, Mollie Burkhart, to the forefront and cast DiCaprio as her villainous husband, Ernest.
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“The character with the least written about became the heart of the story: Ernest. And, of course, that’s what Leo wanted to do. He suggested we find where Ernest is and create him as a representation of the tragic aspects of love, trust, and betrayal among the Indigenous people,” Scorsese explained.