How Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon Improved Its Native American Representation

5


Summary

  • Killers of the Flower Moon sought to improve its depiction of Native Americans, recognizing Hollywood’s checkered past in its portrayal of indigenous people. It aims to tell the powerful and forgotten story of the Osage tribe.
  • By shifting the focus to Lily Gladstone’s Mollie, a Native American woman in the Osage tribe, the film avoids becoming a white man’s procedural and instead becomes a platform for unpacking complex traumas experienced by indigenous people in the US.
  • The film challenges the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood, aiming to give indigenous characters agency and depth rather than relegating them to mere background roles.


SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Killers of the Flower Moon star Leonardo DiCaprio details how the film improved its Native American representation. From iconic director Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon follows a series of mysterious murders of members of the Osage tribe that lead to an FBI investigation and the involvement of J. Edgar Hoover. In addition to DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon stars Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, and John Lithgow.

As Killers of the Flower Moon‘s release approaches, DiCaprio explains how it sought to improve its depiction of Native Americans from the initial script drafts. Speaking to THR prior to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, DiCaprio claims that he and the production team “weren’t immersed in the Osage story” in the original iteration of the script. Upon realizing the powerful story of Native American people at the heart of the film, Killers of the Flower Moon pivoted in an attempt to make something that works against Hollywood’s “checkered past in its depiction of Native American people.” Check out the full quote from DiCaprio below:

“It’s a completely forgotten part of American history, and an open wound that still festers. Hollywood has a long history and checkered past in its depiction of Native American people. We need to do more. You know, we are coming towards a great reckoning of our past. The more that these stories can be told in a truthful way, the more it can be a healing process.

“We weren’t immersed in the Osage story. There was this tiny, small scene between Mollie and Ernest that provoked such emotion in us at the reading, and we just started to penetrate into what that relationship was, because it was so twisted and bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”


Killers Of The Flower Moon’s Script Pivot Was Needed

Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart and Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart in a field in Killers of the Flower Moon

Played by Gladstone, who is Native American herself, Mollie is a woman in the Osage tribe who is married to Ernest Burkhart, a white man who is suspected of the Osage murders at the heart of Killers of the Flower Moon‘s story. This “twisted and bizarre” relationship between Ernest and Mollie is what, according to DiCaprio, will give the movie a better ability to center a Native American story. By turning the focus to Mollie, Killers of the Flower Moon avoids becoming a white man’s procedural and instead transitions into something that hopefully unpacks complex traumas experienced by indigenous people in the United States.

Gladstone herself has spoken to similar themes about Hollywood’s historical depiction of indigenous people. Recently, the actor condemned the stereotyped portrayal of Native Americans in Yellowstone, referring to the depiction as “deplorable.” In her statement, Gladstone drew attention to the fact that Native American actors are so often reduced to playing problematically-realized background characters like those in Yellowstone, for those are the only opportunities available.

From the sounds of it, Killers of the Flower Moon works hard to change this narrative. Instead of relegating the film’s indigenous characters, who are the victims of the murders, to expositional roles for a broader story, Scorsese brings Mollie’s story forward. Hopefully, Killers of the Flower Moon can deliver as much as DiCaprio’s quote would suggest and take a first step in righting the wrongs of copious past Hollywood films and shows.

Source: THR