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Apple Steps in to Save Scorsese-DiCaprio-De Niro Reunion ‘Flower Moon’ as Budget Soars

A $200-million Scorsese film? No problem for Apple and its deep pockets.

Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprioMuseum of Modern Art's 11th Annual Film Benefit presented by Chanel, Arrivals, New York, USA - 19 Nov 2018

Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

After reports that Paramount was balking at the ballooning budget of Martin Scorsese’s $200-million-plus “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Variety reported Wednesday that the distributor has teamed up with Apple to get the film made.

Paramount will distribute the murder mystery drama and Apple has boarded to finance the project and serve as its creative studio. The deal hasn’t closed yet, Variety reported.

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that Paramount, spooked at the rising cost of the film, told Scorsese to seek out other partners. The director reportedly reached out to Apple, Netflix, Universal, and MGM — all entities Paramount would be willing to take on as partners.

The film will reunite Scorsese and longtime collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and is based on the 2017 true-crime book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” The story centers on members of an Oklahoma Native American tribe, whose murders in the 1920s sparked a major federal investigation.

Imperative Entertainment’s Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas are producing. Imperative bought the rights to the book nearly five years ago for a reported $5 million in a bidding war against several major studios.

The funding clash between Scorsese and Paramount comes after the distributor walked away from “The Irishman” over cost issues. The 3 1/2-hour mob epic that cost some $173 million was ultimately released by Netflix.

While terms have not been disclosed, Paramount could collect the theatrical returns from worldwide distribution of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” with AppleTV+ taking exclusive streaming rights.

Apple, which recently reported over $200 billion in cash on hand, has shown an eagerness to spend big on the best talent since the launch of its streaming service last fall. Unlike traditional studios, the tech giant seems to be operating its entertainment holdings as a loss leader, with the $4.99 Apple TV+ service an enticing bonus to keep people in the company’s ecosystem.

Its most notable piece of content is “The Morning Show,” the $150-million per-season show that earned stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon Golden Globe nominations.

Apple teamed with A24 on the record-breaking $12 million acquisition of documentary “Boys State” at Sundance, another indication of its interest in reaching into its pockets for collaborations with theatrical distributors. For a burgeoning streaming service trying to make its name in a sea of competitors, theatrical releases could help boost the profile of its exclusives.

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