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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.

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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