With production on Martin Scorsese’s $200 million Western drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” continuing in Oklahoma through August, Chief of the Osage Nation Geoffrey Standing Bear told Kansas City Magazine that he’s wondering if the movie will encourage the return of the Osage people who “have scattered to the wind.” Based on David Grann’s non-fiction book of the same name, “Flower Moon” tracks a series of murders that plagued the Osage people in Osage County, Oklahoma during the 1920s after valuable oil was discovered on their land. The Osage people were granted in court the right to profit from oil found on their land, which made them the target of greedy ranch owners. The murders attracted the attention of the newly-formed FBI.
“We’ve been driven to the edges of the world, the places no one else wanted,” Standing Bear said. “Kansas City used to be part of our territory. Now half of our twenty-three thousand people live outside Oklahoma, but we’re trying to bring everyone back home.”
Standing Bear is serving as a consultant on “Killers of the Flower Moon” and worked with Scorsese throughout pre-production to ensure the movie accurately depicts the Osage Nation. The chief told Kansas City Magazine that at least five percent of the Osage Nation were assassinated during the time period depicted in the film and that more than 50 percent lost their wealth.
“My great-grandfather Fred Lookout was Chief during that time,” Standing Bear said. “He hired outlaws — men who wouldn’t hesitate to kill — to protect our family…The world does have evil places and evil people. The biggest crime is complicity. Almost everyone went along with the murders.”
Standing Bear gives a copy of “Killers of the Flower Moon” to anyone attempting to do business with the Osage Nation and says it’s “required reading,” adding, “It’s a story that is actually bigger than the Osage Nation. This was illustrated yesterday by a gentleman from California, a business prospect, who considers himself an educated man, and he had never heard this story. It made him think about what other stories all Americans should know about. I thought that was insightful of him.”
As for the film itself, Standing Bear commented briefly on the casting change that saw Leonardo DiCaprio changing roles before filming started. DiCaprio was originally tapped to play Tom White, the FBI agent tasked with solving the murders, but he wanted the meatier role of Ernest Burkhart instead. Ernest is the nephew of William Hale, a primary suspect in the murder investigation. Robert De Niro is playing Hale in the film.
“When I last met Mr. DiCaprio a few weeks ago — he’s a very quiet, very serious gentleman — and mentioned that he’s playing an extremely challenging part, he said that he wanted a very deep role,” Standing Bear said.
“Flower Moon” is backed by Apple, but the streaming giant has not yet announced a release date.