Despite what you might read on Twitter, Martin Scorsese has worked in quite a few genres. He's made several crime films, of course, but also thrillers, a sports movie, a psychological horror, a musical, a couple black comedies, a few historical and/or religious epics, a period romance, many documentaries, and a family adventure. Now, we can add "Western" to that list: he's confirmed to Cahiers du Cinema (reported via Premiere) that his next film will be the long-mooted Killers of the Flower Moon, and will star his two muses Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
David Grann's book of the same title, upon which the film will be based, deals with exploitation of the Osage people after oil was discovered beneath their land. The real-life saga saw oil profiteers systematically murder anywhere between 20 and hundreds of Osage in an attempt to take hold of their court-appointed payouts. De Niro will play William Hale, the cattleman who orchestrated many of the murders, and DiCaprio will play, presumably, one of the FBI agents sent to stop him.
I'll let Scorsese speak to his interest in the story in his own words (Google translated from an interview originally published in French, then edited for Google Translate weirdness by me):
We think it's a Western. It happened in 1921, 1922, in Oklahoma. They are certainly cowboys, but they have cars, and also horses. The film mainly talks about the Osage, a Native American tribe whom we gave a horrible territory, but which they still loved, because they said to themselves that the Whites would never be interested in it. Then we discovered oil there and for about ten years, the Osage became the people richest in the world, per capita. Then as with the Yukon and the mining regions of Colorado, the vultures descend, the white man, the European arrives, and all that is lost. There, the underworld had such control over everything that you were more likely to go to jail for killing a dog than killing a Native American.
[Aside from De Niro and DiCaprio], the cast will be Native American actors. It's so interesting to think about the mentality that leads us to this. The history of civilization goes back to Mesopotamia. The Hittites are invaded by another people, they disappear, and later, we say that they were assimilated, or rather, absorbed. (…) It is fascinating to see this mentality which is reproduced in other cultures, through two world wars. And which is therefore timeless, I think. This is the film that we are going to try to make.
That's a lot to fit into a movie, but consider us intrigued. Scorsese has caught flak for telling very white, very male stories, but on this project, he'll almost definitely be told to "stay in his lane" by at least a few commentators. Though our ideal scenario would see him executive-produce this film alongside a Native American director (and direct Devil In The White City instead), we're excited to see Scorsese - who is not unaware of the diversity and history of human culture - do some long-overdue substantial dramatic work with actors of colour.
According to the Premiere report, Killers of the Flower Moon is expected to start shooting next month (!), targeting a 2021 release. It's a Paramount release, so hopefully there'll be none of this Netflix "is-it-really-a-movie" bullshit.
(header image by Siebbi, used by permission via Wikimedia Commons)