In development since 2016, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon finally has its world premiere this week at the Cannes Film Festival. While there will be much to discuss post-premiere, not to mention endless interviews in what will be a nearly year-long awards run, the director and cast have now given their first major interview about the David Grann adaptation with Deadline.
The conversation is full of fascinating insights, including the precise details of how Leonardo DiCaprio pushed to add more complexity to the story. “Ernest [DiCaprio] and Mollie [Lilly Gladstone] really represented how twisted and complex some of this stuff was, culturally,” the actor said. “A lot of Osage women were marrying white men who really came to prey on them, to take over their headrights and seize their oil money. And yet, at the same time, what struck me was one scene in the initial draft we had, the real testimony of Ernest and Mollie, as he explains his part in this horrific plan. They still loved each other. That was the twisted complexity of what made this a truly dark American story.” He added, “The biggest challenge became pulling off the trick of not making this a mystery, but exposing Ernest early on for who he is and then watching this very twisted relationship unravel. Not only with Mollie, but also with De Niro’s character as well. That wasn’t easy and it took years to figure out.”
However, the most heartbreaking, revelatory moment of the interview is when the 80-year-old Scorsese opened up about the stories he wants to tell and how little time he has left to tell them. “I wish I could take a break for eight weeks and make a film at the same time [laughs]. The whole world has opened up to me, but it’s too late. It’s too late,” Scorsese said. “I’m old. I read stuff. I see things. I want to tell stories, and there’s no more time. Kurosawa, when he got his Oscar, when George [Lucas] and Steven [Spielberg] gave it to him, he said, ‘I’m only now beginning to see the possibility of what cinema could be, and it’s too late.’ He was 83. At the time, I said, ‘What does he mean?’ Now I know what he means.'”
As for the final films Scorsese may direct, he’s most recently become attached to two: another David Grann adaptation and Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration, the seafaring mutiny epic The Wager (which, having just finished, can confirm it would be an epic undertaking worth of the director’s talents), as well as a Jerry Garcia biopic with Jonah Hill attached. As we look forward to how he’ll wrap up his career, Scorsese had some words to say about his forthcoming 3.5-hour film:
“I say to the audience out there, if there is an audience for this kind of thing, ‘Make a commitment. Your life might be enriched. This is a different kind of picture; I really think it is. Well, I’ve given it to you, so hey, commit to going to a theater to see this.’ Spending the evening, or the afternoon with this picture, with this story, with these people, with this world that reflects on the world we are in today, more so than we might realize.”
Killers of the Flower Moon premieres Saturday at Cannes Film Festival and opens in theaters on October 6.