The Apple film held its New York premiere, without its stars but alongside members of the Osage Nation, on Wednesday after debuting at Cannes.
Martin Scorsese, the Killers of the Flower Moon crew and several members of the Osage Nation descended upon New York City on Wednesday night to celebrate the premiere of the Apple original film. As the actors’ strike continues, though, the film’s ensemble cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons and Brendan Fraser were not able to attend the red carpet and screening.
Based on David Grann’s best-selling book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, the film takes place in 1920s Oklahoma and tells the story of the Osage murders through the unlikely romance of Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) and Mollie Kyle (Gladstone).
“It’s a terrific story, and it’s the kind of thing I think that was a time to try to deal with the subject matter,” Scorsese told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “When we started to make the film, the climate wasn’t the same as it is now. I think we were just fortunate in the sense that it’s being released at this time.”
The Oscar-winning director continued, “The thing is that there are certain things about our history, about ourselves as human beings, that if we hide them away, they’re not going to disappear. We might as well discuss it and try to portray it accurately.”
And Grann agreed. For the author, the story is about coming to terms with part of the past that has been erased for far too long. “It is fundamentally about what happens when greed is combined with a dehumanisation of another people, and what that can lead to. In this case it led to genocidal crimes,” he told THR.
The author visited the Osage Nation Museum in 2012 and noticed a photo on the wall of members of the Osage Nation alongside white settlers, but a portion was missing. When he asked the then-museum director Kathryn Red Corn what happened to the other part of the photo, she told him that it contained a figure so frightening that she decided to remove it.
“She said the devil himself was standing right there,” Grann said. “I was always haunted by that because the Osage had removed that photograph not to forget what had happened but because they can’t forget. And yet so many people, including myself, we’d never learned about this history. … This film will help bring part of that history [to light] and start to fill in some of that blankness.”
The novelist explained that he felt his book was in good hands with Scorsese, DiCaprio, Gladstone and the rest of the cast and crew because they all shared a fierce dedication to the story and wanted to know everything about it. They were also determined to work closely with the Osage Nation at every level, shooting on location in Oklahoma and consulting with multiple people to portray the culture as accurately as possible.
Addie Roanhorse was one of the many Osage consultants on set. She explained that every day during production there was something new to consult on – whether it was clothing, food or performing certain ceremonies – Scorsese and his team made sure to discuss everything.
She remembered when the book first came out, people visited the museum to see some of the tribe’s black-and-white photos. She was working with Chief Standing Bear at the time and asked why people were taking black and white photos when the tribe’s colourful blankets are a huge part of their culture.
“When Marty came in, he followed protocol to a tee, and it was like we instantly just thought, ‘Yeah, he’s one of us,’” she explained to THR.
Osage clothing consultant Julie O’Keefe echoed Roanhorse’s sentiment, sharing that the film’s production felt like “a community project,” with everyone on set doing all they could to ensure its authenticity.
“It was an opportunity to be able to show within our clothing, how we authentically present ourselves, which doesn’t happen a lot for natives out there,” she told THR. “And our story is one that has a lot of tragedy and hardship, and for every event that goes on in our life, we have different blankets and different ways that we dress for those events.”
The costume consultant also explained that De Niro, who plays villain William Hale, looked so much like the character that the members of the Osage Nation on set had to catch their breath.
“He looks so much like him, and for our stories, I mean, he would have been the devil in the nightmare,” she said. “And so he walked out, and everyone was just blown away.”