The film, adapted from David Grann’s bestseller by Scorsese and Eric Roth and based on a true story, is set in Oklahoma in the 1920s when oil brought a fortune to the Native Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder. The pic debuted earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and newcomer Lily Gladstone.
O’Keefe said Scorsese and the Flower Moon crew held a preview screening of the film for 800 Osage tribal members, and there was a “really good reception” but the events depicted in the film are still “a very difficult conversation” within the community.
“We have a hard time talking about it with each other. We still have relatives that were victims,” O’Keefe said. “There were 1000 deaths, and many are undocumented. This is just a microcosm of that because it was so over the top.”
O’Keefe added that one of the key elements that elevated the 3-hour, 26-minute feature was Scorsese’s dedication to presenting an authentic representation of the Osage community.
“Authenticity really is the keyword here. Marty went into the community and found language speakers. Lily sounds like a fluent Osage speaker even though she’s Blackfeet,” O’Keefe said. “That nailed down and cemented the authentic part of Osage.”
Costume Designer Jacqueline West, who has worked with Scorsese since his 1990 epic Goodfellas, also praised the director’s “attention to detail” and openness to collaborating with his colleagues.
“I’ve worked with him for many years now, and it’s exciting every single time we start something it feels like the very first time,” West said. “But I do think this film is particularly resonating, telling us the story of this very difficult chapter in the most magnificent cinematic language.”
Killers of the Flower Moon opens wide on October 20.