Martin Scorsese Details How Killers Of The Flower Moon Had A Very Different Opening Scene

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Summary

  • Martin Scorsese originally planned for Killers of the Flower Moon to open with a scene depicting the Oklahoma land rush.
  • Changing the perspective of the film led to a new opening scene that focused on the Osage people.
  • The new opening scene effectively establishes the atmosphere and time period, while also providing historical context through newsreel footage.


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Martin Scorsese details how Killers of the Flower Moon originally had a very different opening scene. Released in theaters on October 20, the latest masterpiece from Scorsese follows the tragic murders of Osage Nation members that took place during the 1920s after oil was discovered on their tribal land in Oklahoma. Killers of the Flower Moon opens with Osage elders somberly burying a ceremonial pipe, as well as Osage members dancing in oil gushing from the ground.

In an interview with IndieWire, Scorsese detailed how Killers of the Flower Moon originally opened with a scene depicting the Oklahoma land rush. The director says that his co-writer, Eric Roth, had the scene entirely written. However, once they decided to change the perspective of the entire film, they decided to change the opening scene with it. Read what Scorsese shared below:

Eric and I originally had the idea that we should do the Oklahoma land rush. He had written a five- or seven-page description with beautiful vignettes, and I was going to shoot it all in one take. We had it all worked out that it would take another month with a separate unit… My thought was that it really just expressed the ethos of the time, which is, “You want the land? There it is, run, take it.” “There are people there.” “It doesn’t matter, don’t mind them, just get rid of them. If they’re getting in the way move them, kill them, just take the land.”

We changed the point of view of the picture from the Bureau of Investigation coming in from the outside to a point of view that worked from the inside out. Going with Ernest and Mollie, we were on the ground with everybody right in the middle of all this, and we realized that in effect the Oklahoma land rushes happened too early for our story.

Related: Killers Of The Flower Moon Ending Explained: The Osage Murders Trial & Outcome


Why Killers Of The Flower Moon Changed Its Opening Scene

Mollie and Ernest embrace each other in The Killers of the Flower Moon.

In the early drafts of the script, Killers of the Flower Moon began with a long scene depicting the Oklahoma land rush, which saw settlers claiming land previously assigned to Native American people. This opening scene would have allowed Scorsese to pay homage to a few of the Westerns that inspired Killers of the Flower Moon, which previously depicted the Oklahoma land rush. This includes the 1931 Best Picture-winner Cimarron and the 1960 remake, which was directed by one of Scorsese’s favorite filmmakers, Anthony Mann.

The original opening scene would have also acted as the perfect metaphor for the themes that Killers of the Flower Moon explores, including exploitation, greed, violence, and corruption. However, Scorsese and Roth ended up changing the entire perspective of the film from the Bureau of Investigation to the actual Osage people living through the murders. This change was made at the behest of Leonardo DiCaprio who was originally going to play Tom White (the lead BOI agent played by Jesse Plemons). Instead, he wanted to play Ernest Burkhart and focus on his complex relationship with Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone).

Once the film’s focus was changed, Scorsese and Roth realized that the Oklahoma land rush, which occurred in 1889, happened too early for the movie, which begins around 1919. Additionally, by favoring the Osage perspective, Scorsese and Roth also decided that white settlers scrambling for land would have been an improper way to start the film. Instead, Killers of the Flower Moon opens with images of the Osage people, which quickly establish the atmosphere and time period, along with newsreel footage that acclimates the audiences with proper historical context.

Source: IndieWire

  • Killers of the Flower Moon

    Killers of the Flower Moon

    Director:
    Martin Scorsese

    Cast:
    Leonardo DiCaprio, Louis Cancelmi, Jillian Dion, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons, JaNae Collins, Robert De Niro, Jason Isbell, Cara Jade Myers, Lily Gladstone

    Runtime:
    200minutes

    Genres:
    History, Drama, Crime

    Writers:
    Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese

    Summary:
    Killers of the Flower Moon is the next film from director Martin Scorsese, based on the non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, initially captured by David Grann. When members of the Osage tribe are murdered in the 1920s via mysterious circumstances shortly after the discovery of oil on Native-American soil, the FBI is established to uncover the true reason behind them.

    Budget:
    $200 million

    Studio(s):
    Paramount Pictures

    Distributor(s):
    Apple, Paramount Pictures