As the uninformed dimwits of Twitter argue that Martin Scorsese ever only makes one kind of movie and expose themselves as having seen but a small portion of the director’s vast oeuvre, the next film will offer further evidence of his great range. In his 50-plus year career, the director has paid homage to a number of westerns, from Rio Bravo to The Great Train Robbery to Shane to The Searchers, but he has yet to make one himself. However, he’s now entering the genre with Killers of the Flower Moon.
“We think it’s a western,” he tells Cahiers du Cinéma via Premiere. “It happened in 1921-1922 in Oklahoma. They are certainly cowboys, but they have cars and also horses. The film is mainly about the Osage, an Indian tribe that was given horrible territory, which they loved because they said to themselves that Whites would never be interested in it. Then we discovered oil there and, for about ten years, the Osage became the richest people in the world, per capita. Then, as with the Yukon and the Colorado mining regions, the vultures disembark, the White man, the European arrives, and all was lost. There, the underworld had such control over everything that you were more likely to go to jail for killing a dog than for killing an Indian.”
Firming up the main cast he adds, “Leonardo DiCaprio will play the main role, Bob (De Niro) will return to play William Hale, ‘King of the Osage Hills,’ the man responsible for most of the murders. The rest will be Native American actors. It’s so interesting to think about the mentality that leads us to this. The history of civilization goes back to Mesopotamia. The Hittites are invaded by another people, they disappear, and later it is said that they have been assimilated or, rather, absorbed. It is fascinating to see this mentality which is reproduced in other cultures, through two world wars. And which is therefore timeless, I think. Finally, this is the film that we are going to try to make.”
While Scorsese did call the concept of Gangs of New York “a western set on Mars,” Flower Moon certainly looks to be embracing more established ideas of the genre. Based on the stellar book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, (the author behind The Lost City of Z), Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Good Shepherd) has penned the script. Production is set to begin next month on location in Oklahoma, marking the largest production in the state’s history, with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and production designer Dante Ferretti reteaming with the director. With this production timeline, Paramount Pictures could release it by late next year.
For more of Scorsese’s thoughts on westerns, check out an excerpt from his excellent film A Personal Journey Through American Movies below, and see around 50 of his favorites in the genre here.