If there’s one upcoming film that has us looking like Charlie Day with a giant board of red confusion, it’s not Barbie (although that’s up there). It’s Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film Killers of the Flower Moon. Scorsese’s first film since 2019’s The Irishman, the film is an adaptation of David Grann’s nonfiction book titled Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which was released in 2017. It is directed by Scorsese with a script written by Scorsese and the perennially Oscar-nominated Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, A Star Is Born, Dune). The film is produced by Paramount and Apple, and is a “‘smaller scale’” film with a reported budget of over $200 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Despite being produced by Apple, the film will have a theatrical release before being released on its streamer, where Timmy Chalamet will no doubt catch it. Below, the trailer, cast, and everything you need to know about the upcoming film ahead of its murderous debut.
What’s Killers of the Flower Moon about exactly?
Based on the nonfiction book of the same name, the film follows the mysterious murders of members of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma during the Roaring ’20s. At the time, the Osage people were incredibly wealthy due to the rich oil deposits found on their land, and a court ruling gave them the right to profit from these resources. This fact made the community a target of local white cattleman William Hale. He and others murdered more than 60 members of the tribe over the course of a decade in an attempt to seize their economic power. At the time, the newly formed FBI investigated the murders and Hale was eventually convicted. According to THR, the original script included a good (white) character as the lead who has since been revised as a man torn between love and Hale, his uncle.
How did Martin Scorsese approach the Osage murders?
While the book focuses on FBI agent Tom White, who solved the mystery in one of the bureau’s first major cases, Scorsese and his lead, Leonardo DiCaprio, had no interest in serving up a white-savior story. Instead, the film trains its lens on the twisted Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), a white man married to Osage tribe member Mollie (Lily Gladstone) while he and his uncle Bill Hale (Robert De Niro) are actively killing Osage people — including poisoning his wife.
“Here you had the wealthiest nation, the richest per capita people in the world,” DiCaprio told Deadline. “You had this melting pot in Oklahoma where freed slaves had created their own economy, and the Osage emerged as this wealthy culture. But you also had, during that period, the rise of the KKK and white supremacy and this clash of cultures. For some of these white settlers, it was like a gold rush to take advantage of people of color.”
A previous version of the script followed the FBI agent. “There’s no mystery,” Scorsese told Deadline about the first draft. “So, what is it? A police procedural? Who cares! We’ve got fantastic ones on television.” His disillusionment with the straightforward story of Tom White led him to delve into the “mindset of the people who did this” for something a little more complex — like a fucked-up love and institutional racism that allowed these murders to go on for so long.
“It made the most sense to show what’s going on in that world, the dynamic between the nephew and the uncle,” De Niro told Deadline. “[Hale] believed he loved them and felt they loved him. But within that, he felt he had the right to behave the way he did.”
Who’s in the cast?
As you might expect from a Scorsese film, Killers of the Flower Moon has a stacked cast. Ernest Burkhart will be portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio with his uncle, Bill Hale, is set to be played by newcomer Robert De Niro. Other big names include recent Oscar winner Brendan Fraser, who plays Hale’s attorney, and Oscar nominee Jesse Plemons as FBI agent White. Indigenous actress Lily Gladstone (First Cow) is Mollie Burkhart. And it turns out Jack White of the White Stripes will have a “small role.”
When can I see it?
The film will first premiere on October 6 before going into wide release in theaters on October 20 and streaming on Apple TV+ sometime after that, though the official date is not confirmed. And if you happen to be vacationing in France this summer, the film is officially debuting at the Cannes Film Festival May 20 at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. Hurry, find a wall for Post-its and maps covered in red string.
Is the runtime really that extreme?
It’s three hours and 26 minutes, or one Avatar: The Way of Water plus a 14-minute YouTube video explaining it.