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Scorsese chooses compassion over thrills for “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Martin Scorsese originally planned to make “Killers of the Flower Moon” as a straight-up thriller.

Leonardo DiCaprio was in to star as a hard-as-nails Texas Ranger Tom White chosen by FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover to solve the nascent bureau’s first big case: find out who was murdering Osage Nation people for their oil money in 1920s Oklahoma.

Scorsese had co-written the script, his first western, based on the celebrated 2017 non-fiction book by journalist David Grann. He’d assembled the creative team, including Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) and longtime collaborator Robert De Niro. Hollywood moved into two tiny Oklahoma towns and production started.

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Then the celebrated filmmaker said he asked himself a tough question, “Why are we making a film about Tom White that’s really about the Osage?”

Speaking recently over Zoom from New York, Scorsese, 80, paused his customary rapid-fire speech as he considered how best to explain his unexpected epiphany about his film, due in theatres Oct. 20.

In the end, he said, it came down to a single word: compassion.


(Originally published in the Toronto Star.)

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