When Martin Scorsese announces a new project, the world tends to stop and pay a bit of attention – despite whatever issues we may collectively have with Netflix’s rather lacklustre The Irishman. After almost two years of industry whispers and throwaway mentions buried within interview transcripts, it appears as though his upcoming crime epic starring Leonard DiCaprio and Robert De Niro – Killers of the Flower Moon – will finally be gearing up for production in February. Seven long months of production, to be exact.
Based on the bestselling non-fiction book by journalist David Grann – as well as the real-life historical events in question – this has been something ripe for big-screen adaptation long before the director behind Goodfellas, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street had his Academy Award-winning sights set on it. Point of fact, Killers of the Flower Moon was subject to a US$5 million bidding war for the screen rights alone.
In the 1920s, Native Americans from the Osage tribe became the “richest people in the world” after large oil deposits were discovered beneath their reservation. Not long after, several members of the tribe were murdered one by one in various ways – consistent with the ongoing narrative of America whenever resources come into play. Officially, the body count reached at least 20. Investigations since have estimated the real figure is somewhere in the hundreds.
Acknowledged as “one of the most sinister crimes” and “one of the highest-profile serial killings” witnessed by the country during the 20th century, Killers of the Flower Moon also involves the birth of the FBI and its first Director, J. Edgar Hoover; which were tasked with investigating the entire ordeal. Incidentally, DiCaprio has previously portrayed Hoover for Clint Eastwood’s 2011 film J. Edgar.
“Members of the Osage tribe in the United States are murdered under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s sparking a major FBI investigation involving J. Edgar Hoover.”IMDb
This time around, however, DiCaprio is taking on a far less heroic role. In the first script written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, A Star Is Born, Dune), he was positioned as the hero – “a federal agent working for the newly-established FBI, who heads to the Osage Nation to solve a series of murders”. For the better part of last year, DiCaprio pushed to switch it up.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the revised iteration of the script will see the leading man portray the nephew of Robert De Niro’s character – the film’s villain and long-suspected killer – “torn between love and the evil machinations of his uncle”.
“My screenplay, I think, was accurate to the book,” says Roth, speaking about the original script.
“It’s the story of Osage Indians, 1921, the poorest people in America who discover oil in this terrible land in Oklahoma where they’ve been driven to.”
“Then every killer in America comes to kill 184 of them for their money, but this really heroic guy comes in [to help].”
Killers of the Flower Moon was initially set to be released by Paramount before its rapidly ballooning US$200 million budget and creative differences, mainly regarding DiCaprio’s role in relation to how it’d impact commercial appeal, proved untenable. Instead, it’ll now be released through Apple TV+ (release date to be announced… as well as several other key details yet to be confirmed).