History Behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s Movie, Killers Of The Flower Moon

Though Leonardo DiCaprio has been the source of the famous "pointing meme" lately, there is now some fresh DiCaprio-related news to share. Leonardo DiCaprio’s last film, 2019’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood left fans and film buffs alike asking for more. Here is everything we know about Leonardo DiCaprio's next film: Killers Of The Flower Moon.

pointing meme
the famous pointing meme. image source: knowyourmeme

Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star in Martin Scorsese’s next film, Killers Of The Flower Moon. Costarring Robert De Niro, it takes place in the 1920’s when members of the Osage Tribe are murdered, sparking an investigation by J. Edgar Hoover. 

The wait may not belong, as DiCaprio’s next movie, this time with legendary director and frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese, is in the principal photography phase. The movie does not have a release date yet, but given that filming has just started, 2022 would be a good guess as any. 

DiCaprio has always been one of my favorite actors, I have watched him since his Basketball Diaries days and have enjoyed every film he has been a part of. His films with Scorsese, like Gangs of New York and The Departed, are two of the best films of all time. I am extremely excited about Leonardo DiCaprio's next film with Martin Scorsese, Killers Of The Flower Moon.

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio pose for photo together
Image Source: Variety

What Is The Movie Killers Of The Flower Moon About?

The film will be a historical drama, set in 1920’s Osage County, Oklahoma. It will be an adaptation of the nonfiction book of the same name by David Grann. In addition to being released through DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, it will be distributed by Paramount Pictures and Apple TV+. 

Concerning the oil boom of the 1920s, the film explores the relationship between American cattleman William Hale (played by Robert De Niro), and the Osage Indian Tribe. Following the discovery of large oil deposits on Osage land in 1897, the tribe sees great wealth from The Department of Indian Affairs and uses the royalties from their oil sales to pay their people. 

When Oklahoma was being prepped for statehood in 1907, the federal government allotted 657 acres to every Osage person listed on the tribal roll. Consequently, a lineage of inheritance was set in motion that legally saw any legal heirs to these original indigenous peoples receive the wealth of their ancestors. 

Depiction of Osage wealth in 1920's
Image Source: PBS

The Osage Oil Murders

After 1920, the oil market in America grew considerably and was now part of big business. According to The New Yorker, in the fiscal year 1923 alone, the Osage people were extremely wealthy, and earned “more than thirty million dollars, the equivalent today of more than four hundred million dollars.”

Soon, newspapers began publishing stories of the super-rich Osage, which at the time were described as “the richest nation, clan or social group of any race on earth, including the whites, man for man.” Considering the racial biases of the time, it is not hard to believe that white opportunists began to make their way to Oklahoma, hoping to find themselves a piece of the pie. 

Thinking that the Osage could not properly utilize or protect their own economic interests, the United States Congress passed a law in 1921, which mandated that the courts appoint guardians of minors who would inherit the oil money. Unfortunately, the courts chose white businessmen and lawyers as well as other political officials to do this job. 

Osage People meet with Washington officials
Image Source: The Culture Trip

The Reign of Terror

Since 1921, the white guardians began to engage in corrupt and calculated legal maneuvers to take the oil rights from their young charges. Indeed, other men still chose instead to murder their Osage minors outright, passing the rights to themselves. "The Reign of Terror" had begun.

This is where Robert De Niro’s character, William Hale comes in. When the corpse of 36-year-old Anna Brown was found, the courts awarded her mother the rights to her oil estate. Years later, wealthy cattleman William Hale was implicated in the murder by small-time criminal Kelsie Morrison, who claims he did the killing under orders from him. 

William Hale older age
Image Source: Find A Grave Memorial

Eventually, Brown’s mother, as well as various cousins of hers, were killed. The methods included poisoning, shooting, and bombings among others. In addition to these violent means, Hale arranged to be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy on one of Brown’s cousins, Henry Roan. He was later found shot dead on the reservation. 

Hale was not without help in these ventures. Witness testimony and an FBI investigation found Ernest Burkhart guilty of playing a prominent role in the schemes. Burkhart was Hale’s nephew and will be played by Leonardo DiCaprio himself. 

DiCaprio's character Ernest Burkhart in 1920's
Image Source: Famous Trials
Young FBI Director Hoover
Image Source: History.com

The FBI's First Big Case

When Anna Brown’s mother died, the rights passed to her sister, Mollie, who had recently married Ernest Burkhart. Mollie was poisoned and almost died but eventually escaped and divorced Burkhart. Mollie lost many family members to Hale and Ernest’s schemes, with both her sisters, her brother-in-law, her mother, and her cousin all losing their lives to the rampant “Reign Of Terror”. 

After the FBI stepped in, Hoover and Special Agent Tom White found a weak link. Ernest eventually testified for the state and consequently, he was jailed alongside Hale. William "King of The Osage Hills" Hale was given a life sentence but was paroled in 1947. DiCaprio’s character would serve a longer sentence than his uncle however and would be released in 1959 and pardoned in 1966. 

The Osage protested the release of the murderers, although popular racist sentiment let the men go free. The total death toll of Osage people during the period 1900-1931 is estimated at over a hundred, although many deaths remain unsolved to this day. 

FBI Director Hoover with Special Agent Tom White
Image Source: History.com

The US Government Takes Steps To Make Things Right

In 1925, the government passed a law allowing only full Osage to receive oil revenues. The Department of the Interior continued to hold control over these rights until the year 2000. In 2011, the Osage people won a settlement of $380 million from the US Government

Special Agent Tom White, who will be played by Breaking Bad alumni Jesse Plemons, led the team that took down the evil men who orchestrated the Osage Oil Murders.  His undercover operation amongst Hale and his nephews led to the downfall of William Hale.

On the other hand, the US Government remaining in control of these oil rights proved just how poorly the Native Americans had been treated.  This landmark case was a boost of morale for the crimefighters, but the Osage only just recently tried to begin recovering from this terribly dark chapter of their past.

Osage People pose for photo
Image Source: The New York Times

Meet The Cast Of Killers Of The Flower Moon

As of now, it remains unseen as to what Leo will bring to this complicated role, but one can imagine perhaps a mix of his Gangs Of New York character crossed with his The Departed role. These were, interestingly enough, both Scorsese films that Leo played a violent criminal in. 

With star power like De Niro and DiCaprio, as well as legendary director Martin Scorsese, this picture is bound to be a memorable one. Boasting a budget of over $200 million, it will certainly be considered a must-see. Historical dramas have seen a spike in recent years and this will be no different. 

Killers Of The Flower Moon features many great actors. The film stars many men who have worked with Scorsese before. We have Robert De Niro as William “Bill” Hale. As mentioned above, we have Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart. Jesse Plemons will play the role of FBI agent Tom White.

Many will remember him from Breaking Bad as Todd, or his most recent role as FBI Special Agent Roy Mitchell in Judas And The Black Messiah. And of course, Plemons played Jimmy Hoffa’s foster son, Chuckie, in Scorsese’s 2019 film The Irishman. Below is a complete list of the cast, up to this very moment, but he advised that more could be added or changed. 

Cast Of Killers Of The Flower Moon:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart 
  • Robert De Niro as William Hale 
  • Jesse Plemons as Tom White 
  • Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart 
  • Tantoo Cardinal as Lizzie Q 
  • Cara Jade Myers as Anna Brown 
  • JaNae Collins as Reta 
  • Jillian Dion as Minnie 
  • William Belleau as Henry Roan 
  • Louis Cancelmi as Kelsie Morrison 
  • Jason Isbell as Bill Smith 
  • Sturgill Simpson as Henry Grammer 
  • Tatanka Means as John Wren 
  • Michael Abbott Jr. as Frank Smith 
  • Pat Healy as John Burger 
  • Scott Shepherd as Bryan Burkhart 
  • Gary Basaraba as William J. Burns 
Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on set Of Killers Of the Flower Moon
Image Source: Cinema Blend

The Location 

The small town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma has been picked as the setting for Killers Of The Flower Moon. It will undeniably give it that western credibility. The state of Oklahoma is excited. Matt Pinnell, the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Tourism, called the film “the largest film production in state history” when he shared the news of a crew call to his Twitter page.  

Pawhuska is in the heart of Osage County which is in northern Oklahoma. It serves as the county seat. The film is expected to bring lots of jobs and revenue to the area, as well as increased recognition. 

With a budget of $200 million, this will definitely help the local economy of Osage County. Martin Scorsese himself was seen in Pawhuska at the local appliance store Hometown Appliance. Owner Jody Martin said of Scorsese “Martin Scorsese has been been in my building twice.

I still haven’t met him because I have been busy doing things and he has been busy doing things while he was there.” Martin’s building is in the middle of the set and will be used as a location. Of the local population, Martin said, “They are anxious and excited.” 

Chamber of Commerce Photo for Pawhuska, OK
Image Source: Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce

Looking Forward To Killers Of The Flower Moon

Given the people involved, this will be the next big hit from Martin Scorsese. Expect to see the expected hype surrounding all of his movies. As we look forward to Killers Of The Flower Moon, we think about DiCaprio and Scorsese's successful past together with optimism.

Joseph Poulos is a freelance writer from Michigan.

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