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Martin Scorsese Starts ‘Flower Moon’ Filming: ‘Accurate Depiction’ of Osage Nation Is Critical

Scorsese says his goal with the film is "to immortalize a time in American history that should not be forgotten.”

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

The Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) and Apple Original Films have jointly announced the start of principal photography on Martin Scorsese’s long-in-the-works Western drama “Killers of the Flower Moon.” An Apple representative confirmed the news to IndieWire. Filming kicked off April 19 in Oklahoma. The film, based on David Grann’s bestselling nonfiction book, is set in 1920s Oklahoma and depicts the serial murders of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror.

“We are thrilled to finally start production on ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ in Oklahoma,” Scorsese said in a statement. “To be able to tell this story on the land where these events took place is incredibly important and critical to allowing us to portray an accurate depiction of the time and people. We’re grateful to Apple, the Oklahoma Film and Music Office and The Osage Nation, especially all our Osage consultants and cultural advisors, as we prepare for this shoot. We’re excited to start working with our local cast and crew to bring this story to life on screen and immortalize a time in American history that should not be forgotten.”

With the start of production, Apple has also finalized the ensemble cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Tatanka Means, Michael Abbott Jr., Pat Healy, Scott Shepherd, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson.”

DiCaprio is starring in “Flower Moon” as Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of a powerful local rancher (De Niro). Plemons, reuniting with Scorsese after “The Irishman,” plays Tom White, a member of the newly-formed FBI who heads the investigation into the Osage Nation murders. “Certain Women” breakout Gladstone is playing Ernest’s Osage wife. The script, written by Eric Roth, originally planned for DiCaprio to play the role of Tom White, but the actor jumped at the chance to play the less heroic Ernest instead. Roth has said DiCaprio and Plemons’ roles are equal in terms of importance to the story.

Both Scorsese and DiCaprio spent the months leading up to production on “Flower Moon” meeting with Osage Nation members to ensure the film would accurately depict the culture and setting.

“In recent meetings with Oklahoma Senators and House of Representative Members I made the point of how much their support for the movie industry has made a difference. This is a very strong, lucrative business which directly benefits many Oklahomans, including the Sovereign Nations. It promotes financial opportunities and cultural recognition for all,” said Chief of the Osage Nation Geoffrey Standing Bear in a statement. “The funding from the State of Oklahoma along with the efforts of the Osage Nation have proven to be a big draw for this film in particular. We are now seeing the fruits of all of our efforts to bring this great movie production here and now!”

“Hosting Oklahoma’s largest motion picture in state history is about to begin and it means a lot to the state of Oklahoma to bring this film to its historical origin, which is already impacting rural communities and small businesses in huge ways,” added Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell. “Studio executives keep emphasizing the importance of the ‘three-legged stool’ that we need a strong crew base, local infrastructure and production incentives. I am confident Oklahoma is on its way to strengthening the stool and is poised to show Apple Studios, Imperative, Appian Way and the esteemed cast and crew professionals, our state’s natural beauty, our pioneering innovation and the resilience of our people here in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Film + Music Office is also partnering with Apple Studios to help fill hundreds of production jobs for the project. Per a statement from the companies: “To date, dozens of production assistants have been hired to join this program, participating in mentor sessions with ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ crew. This event marks one aspect of the four-part series which will kick start the participants’ professional development while working on this unique project.”

“Oklahoma’s film industry is flourishing and while we are pleased this production is already employing hundreds of Oklahomans, with thousands of background extras lined up, we are just getting started and are ecstatic about the workforce development opportunities to train up the next generation of filmmakers,” said Tava Maloy Sofsky, Director [Film Commissioner] of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office. “Honestly, while it’s everyday work for everyone involved, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to host everyone on this special production and its entire cast and crew, which will positively impact our state in unprecedented ways.”

Production on “Killers of the Flower Moon” will continue through the summer.

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