By Samantha Vicent
After months of discussions with the Osage Nation about making “Killers of the Flower Moon” into a movie, the tribe’s chief said Friday that director Martin Scorsese finally confirmed that his team will film the adaptation in Osage County.
Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear told the Tulsa World on Friday evening that Scorsese and members of his team visited the Osage Nation campus earlier that day for about two hours. He said the tribe told Scorsese’s team about its interest in providing resources to help ensure that the film portrays an accurate representation of the Osage people.
“I told him we’re all very excited about this movie, and eventually I came to the question that we had been wondering about for a year: Is he going to film here? And he said yes,” Standing Bear said. “And then his producer said, ‘We’re going to film all of it here.’ So that was big news.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” is about the murder of Osage tribal members in the 1920s after the discovery of oil on their land made them wealthy. Production company Imperative Entertainment paid $5 million in 2016 for the rights to the book and later brought Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, a frequent collaborator of his, in on the project.
The World reported last month that Scorsese’s team was in Pawhuska doing research. Paramount Pictures announced at a European film expo on June 19 that it would finance and distribute the movie, according to Variety.
“Two weeks ago some of the other production people could not tell us for sure that they would (film in Oklahoma,)” Standing Bear said Friday evening, adding that “today they said yes.” He relayed that “it was a very recent decision.”
He said the production team said it wants to work closely with the Osage Nation so the tribe’s 1920s culture, history and language would be correct in the film.
The Osage News first reported on the meeting among Standing Bear, Scorsese, producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff, co-producer and researcher Marianne Bower, and Osage Nation project ambassadors Chad Renfro and Addie Roanhorse.
Other project members include executive producer Georgia Kacandes and production designer Dante Ferretti, who has three Academy Awards for art direction, two of which were for Scorsese’s films “The Aviator” and “Hugo.”
Standing Bear said Friday’s meeting was the fourth with members of the film team but the first with Scorsese, who said he had not been to Oklahoma before. Scorsese, according to Standing Bear, said Robert DeNiro agreed to play the character of William Hale, one of the main characters in the book.
“This is going to be by far the biggest production that has ever been in our area — ever,” Standing Bear said. “It’s going to be great for the economy. It’s going to be great for aspiring actors and actresses.”
He noted that the 2013 film “August: Osage County,” which featured Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts and was produced by George Clooney, was also shot on location.
“Pawhuska is a really great place to film because of our architecture and our location,” Standing Bear said.
The Osage News reported that Scorsese said he became interested in adapting “Killers of the Flower Moon” after his manager gave him a copy of the book by David Grann. The publication quoted Scorsese as saying he has always been “obsessed” with the Midwest and how America expanded its territories.
“What really got to me was the intrinsic sense of evil,” Scorsese said during the meeting, according to the Osage News.
Standing Bear told the World that Scorsese was a “great storyteller” and that the production team said it was open to having local people involved as talent so they can get experience in film and production.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is the sixth film collaboration for DiCaprio and Scorsese, who last worked together on the short film “The Audition,” which also starred DeNiro. The bulk of preproduction for “Killers of the Flower Moon” is expected to occur in November, with filming projected for the spring and summer of 2020.
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