Martin Scorsese’s upcoming western crime drama, Killers of the Flower Moon, finished filming in late 2021. This means that the movie is the closest it’s been to being released ever since the rights were bought way back in 2016. It’s based on a non-fiction book of the same name that wasn’t even published until a year after those rights were purchased, so there’s been a high demand for the movie, and its release this year is greatly anticipated.
Even amidst several delays due to other film projects and the COVID-19 pandemic, the movie was never completely pushed aside after the initial filming plans for March 2020 were canceled. Though the film did change directors several times before finally settling on Martin Scorsese, it has an all-star cast and even sought help from the Osage tribe, the Indigenous American tribe featured in the book. Here’s a look at everything we know right now.
There is a large list of cast members released so far, though the production companies continued casting new actors well into the middle of filming, so there’s a chance there are still a few we don’t know about. What we do know, however, is that there are four main actors leading the story. They are Leonardo DiCaprio (a frequent Scorsese muse) as Ernest Burkhart, Jesse Plemons as Tom White, Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart, and Robert De Niro as William Hale. DiCaprio also served as a producer.
Other cast members joining these stars include Michael Abbott Jr., Gary Basaraba, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Tantoo Cardinal, JaNae Collins, Barry Corbin, Jillian Dion, Steve Eastin, Brendan Fraser, Pat Healy, Jason Isbell, Tatanka Means, Cara Jade Myers, John Lithgow, Scott Shepherd, and singer Sturgill Simpson.
Since Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the non-fiction book, it’s certain the two share a similar plot derived from a very true but often forgotten piece of American history. In the early 1920s, vast oil deposits were discovered beneath the Osage people’s land, an otherwise infertile and desolate area they were actually forced to migrate to after white Americans pushed them off their original land. Courts awarded the Osage people the right to the profits made from the oil on their land, and “they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to ‘help’ them spend it,” according to the book and National Public Radio.
As members of the profitable oil community began to lose money to the Osage tribe, a murderous conspiracy developed which ignored the fact that the Indigenous Americans were legal owners of the land and also its profits. Entire communities developed a scheme to kill and rob the newly wealth Osage peoples; as David Gann writes in his book:
[…] so many people were part of the plot. You had lawmen, you had prosecutors, you had the reporters who wouldn’t cover it. You had oilmen who wouldn’t speak out. You had morticians who would cover up the murders when they buried the body. You had doctors who helped give poison to people.
The newly-created FBI proceeded to go undercover and investigate the more than 24 murders in a risky, gradual process.
Killers of the Flower Moon is set to be released sometime in 2022. Considering they wrapped filming up in October of 2021, it’s more likely this movie will be out later in the year during awards season, as editing wraps up and the finishing touches are added on. Though the film is largely produced by Paramount Pictures, it won’t be available to watch on Paramount+. Instead, it will be released in theaters as well as be available to stream on Apple TV+ after Apple TV joined as a co-producer to fund the film.
Everything Else We Know
The initial release date, an unspecified day in 2021, was originally planned after filming was announced to begin early 2020. With the pandemic, filming was delayed indefinitely. However, director Martin Scorsese had planned to make this movie his priority after finishing his previous movie, The Irishman. So, using this extra time to make some script changes and to cast additional people, along with forming an unprecedented 100-member team of nurses and doctors to protect from the pandemic, the cast and crew were finally allowed to begin filming in mid-2021, pushing the release date back only one year.
Scorsese has worked hand-in-hand with the Osage tribe to bring about a proper tribute to what is sometimes referred to as the “Osage reign of terror.” The movie should have accurate depictions of what actually happened to these people, thanks to their collaboration. Killers of the Flower Moon was also largely shot on Osage grounds, so the background will stay true to the origins as well, and with the inclusion of indegenous cast members, it looks like Scorsese was trying not to miss a single detail when casting and filming. If the post-production is as good as the rest of the $200 million project, we should be in for a great retelling of this human tragedy, and yet another great film from the 79-year old master of cinema.