Light Mode

Killers of the Flower Moon: A Cinematic Tapestry of Dark Secrets

Bringing a book to the screen begins with finding the right story, and then leads to the long, difficult process of attaching it to a film-worthy script, and later a director and cast that can bring that script to cinematic life. Some obvious examples are movies like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Forrest Gump by Winston Francis Groom, Jr., the latter of which would take nine years to make due to lack of studio interest. It’s no surprise, then, that David Gann’s topical New York Times bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon would require finding a team that was the right fit for getting the job done.

Enter famed director Martin Scorsese and Eric Roth, a powerhouse screenwriter in Hollywood (e.g. Forrest Gump).


- Advertisement -

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Story Behind the Film

When members of the Osage Indians discovered oil running through their land in the 1890s, they found themselves with immense life-changing wealth. As is always the case when money’s involved, news of the oil discovery and the immeasurable prosperity it brought the Osage lured a group of outsiders into town–individuals willing to stop at nothing to make the money theirs.

How would they go about it? For the answer, we need to examine the history of Osage headrights.

The Osage Indians first came to Oklahoma in the late 1800s when they were run out of Kansas. Once in their new home, the Osage would buy land with the blessing of the US federal government, then pass that land onto their children. This system was greatly unchanged until the day local rancher William Hale entered the picture. Hale would concoct a plan to fleece the Osage people of their headrights, and the first step in his scheme was to marry off his own unsuspecting nephew to an Osage woman named Mollie. Once this was done, Hale had Mollie’s mother and two sisters killed with the intent of inheriting the headrights to their land.

When news of the murders filtered up to the White House, J. Edgar Hoover sent agents from his Bureau of Investigation–the precursor to today’s FBI–to look into their mysterious deaths. Texas Marshall, Tom White was eventually charged with leading the probe, and in 1929, Hale was found guilty and sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary, where White would ironically serve as warden.

Martin Scorsese: The Man For the Job

In Killers of the Flower Moon veteran director Martin Scorsese embarks on a journey of greed, conspiracy, and ultimately murder–re-creating a bygone era that transports viewers to a time and place where the people of the Osage nation were defrauded, poisoned, murdered … and ultimately, tragically forgotten. In an article for The Telegraph, Alex Diggins wrote, “Scorsese’s film feels like a partial atonement for these crimes – and for Hollywood’s long history of racist presentations of indigenous peoples.”

- Advertisement -

The director’s effort to make the film feel as authentic as possible is evidenced by the fact that many of its actors and crew members are from the Osage nation. Scorcese was also determined to get the historical accuracy of the setting right, from the size of the buildings to his location shots. This and the leased use of Osage land required a substantial budget, attaching an element of financial risk to the production that went well beyond the average studio gamble. With profit margins in Hollywood tight these days, part of the hope for Flower Moon is that its estimated $200 million cost will be offset by the bankable star power of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and Robert De Niro as William Hale.

What are audiences saying?

With Hollywood putting out an endless stream of remakes and branded sequels, it’s both noteworthy and refreshing to see Martin Scorsese tackle a standalone historical film on a subject that holds social implications to this day. Dexter Stallworth states this on X (formerly Twitter):

Reviewer Dana Stevens offered similar praise:

From the opening scene to the very last frame, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon looks to be a must-watch this fall. The hope is that audiences will be moved and enlightened by this story of how the Osage Indians, the wealthiest people in America at the time, fell victim to the worst examples of greed by influential and powerful businessmen. 

- Advertisement -


- Advertisement -