What is it about us as human beings that allows for us to be so compartmentalised?

Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s sorrowful epic of twisted love, genocide, and the evildoing of white America, hits cinemas this weekend to overwhelming acclaim. Adapted from journalist David Grann’s typesetting well-nigh a rash of wealth-motivated murders of Osage people on their oil-rich Native American reservation when in the 1920s, it’s a mucosa of devastating cumulative power.

Scorsese brings in Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert DeNiro as the triumvirate of major players in a sprawling tapestry of conspiracy, greed, and racist betrayal. At the global printing priming for the film, the veteran director spoke well-nigh the importance of historical accuracy, the power of his collaboration with actors, and…Leonardo Dicaprio’s love for the Criterion Channel.

What steps did you and the production team take to ensure that the Osage polity felt virtuously represented?

It was very important for me, as soon as they gave me the book. I had an wits in the ‘70s where I began to wilt enlightened of the nature of what their situation was, and still is. I had been sparklingly unaware of that, in my 20s. How do you deal with that culture in a way that’s respectful and moreover not hagiographic or falling into the Rousseau noble native thing? How truthful can we be and still have authenticity and respect?

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Ultimately, this was supplemented by the times that we went out to Oklahoma and met with the Osage. My first meeting was with Chief Standing Bear and his group: Julie and Addie Roanhorse, and Chad Renfro. And it was very variegated from what I expected. They were naturally cautious. I had to explain I was just gonna try and deal with them as honestly and truthfully as possible. We weren’t going to fall into the trap; of the cliche of victims, or the drunken Indian, and tell the story as straight as possible. What I didn’t really understand is that this was an ongoing situation in Oklahoma. The families and descendants are still there.

And what I learned from meeting with them, having dinners with them – plane Margie, the relative of Ernest Burkhart – was that a lot of the white guys out there, they were good friends. Henry Rome was Bill Hale’s weightier friend, and yet he killed him. So what is it well-nigh us as human beings that allows for us to be so compartmentalised?

The mucosa takes place in Oklahoma, and you were willful well-nigh shooting there. What was your impression of it and how did you uncork to visualise the mucosa taking place there?

MS: I think the first time was in 2019. there surpassing COVID. And for me, you know, I am a New Yorker. I grew up in the Lower East Side of New York. I’m very urban. I don’t understand weather that much, or where the sun is when you’re on the set. I was very surprised to learn that it set in the West. That’s considering I was driving lanugo Sunset Boulevard one time well-nigh 30 years ago, and I saw the sun setting. And I said, “That’s great. It’s Sunset Boulevard. The sun sets in the west. Now I get it.”

Anyway, when I got there, all I can tell you is those prairies are quite something. And they unshut your mind and your heart. They are just beautiful. And especially, driving on these roads and on both sides, wild horses, bison, and cows. And so, I said, “Where do I put the camera at this point? How much of the sky? How much of the prairie? Should it be 1.85 or should it be 2.35? We gotta go 2.35, you know, ‘cause I wanna see increasingly of this land.” And then I began to realize that the land itself could be sinister. In other words, you’re in a place like this, and you don’t see people for miles? You can do anything. Particularly, it turns out, a hundred years ago. It’s a wide-open territory.

You have the law, but the law doesn’t work the same way. The place, as trappy as it is, can shift to stuff very sinister. And what I wanted to capture, ultimately, was the very nature of the virus or the cancer that creates this sense of a kind of soft-sell genocide.

Can you discuss how you wanted to tell the story in a way which was both emotionally resonant but moreover historically accurate?

That was the constant: historically accurate. Or, truthful. We had a lot of support from the Osage authority, the experts who were giving us indications of how to go well-nigh these things. Johnny Williams, and a number of other people. We tested the verism of the rituals, the victual namings, the wedding, the funerals. In some cases, there was wiggle room considering honestly, the last two generations of Osage were taken out of their experiences considering they had to wilt White European. They had to wilt Christians, Catholics, whatever. But in fact, now there’s a new resurgence of learning the language. And we had language teachers there, and Lily Gladstone, Leo, and De Niro learned the language. De Niro really fell in love with it, and wanted to do increasingly scenes in Osage. So they were learning to put their culture when together then through this movie, and we were going with them.

Martin Scorsese

People are going to be really impressed with Lily Gladstone’s performance. Can you talk a little bit well-nigh the first thing you shot with her?

[Casting director] Ellen Lewis showed her to me in Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt’s film, and I thought she was terrific. Then Covid happened and we weren’t worldly-wise to meet. But we met on Zoom. And I was very impressed by her presence, the intelligence, and the emotion that’s there in her face. But you see it – there’s something working overdue the eyes.

And I think the first big scene we did was one of my favourite scenes, where she has dinner with Ernest alone. And she’s questioning him, a little bit of an interrogation. What are you doing here? All that sort of thing. [….] And of undertow there’s the scene where he’s driving her in the taxi, in only one shot. […] She says something in Osage. […] And he goes, “Well, I don’t know what that was, but it must have been Indian for handsome devil,” And that’s an improv, and you see her laugh for real. So in that moment, you have the very relationship – and it’s unquestionably between the two actors.

So these were the two moments we felt very well-appointed with her. We had a feeling that we needed her to help us tell the story of the women there. We would unchangingly trammels with her and work with her on the script. There were scenes that were added, scenes were rewritten constantly.

You’ve worked a 20-year partnership with Leo DiCaprio and a 50-year partnership with Robert De Niro. Why have you returned to them both so often over the years, and what has stood out to you most well-nigh their work on Killers of the Flower Moon?

Well, in the specimen of Robert De Niro, we were teenagers together, and he’s the only one who really knows where I come from, the people I knew, and that sort of thing. We had a real testing ground in the ’70s, where we tried everything, and we trusted each other. It’s all well-nigh trust and love. And that’s a big deal, considering very often if an two-face has a lot of power, and he had a lot of power at that time, an two-face could take over your picture. If the studio gets wrestling with you, the two-face comes in and takes it over. With him, I never felt that. I never felt that. There was freedom; there was experimenting.

And years later, he told me he worked with this kid, Leo DiCaprio in This Boy’s Life, and he said, “You should work with this kid sometime.” It was just casual. But it wasn’t casual. He rarely gave recommendations. Years go by, and I’m presented with Leo, with Gangs of New York. He made Gangs possible, actually. He loved the pictures I’d made, and he wanted to explore the same territory.

We really found out that plane though there’s 30 years difference, he has similar sensibilities. You know, he’ll come to me and he’ll say, “Listen to this record,” and it’s Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald. I grew up with it. But it’s interesting. He’ll undeniability me and say, “You know, I had a unprepossessed and I was looking at Criterion films, and, you know, I wanted to reservation up on some of these classics, and I saw this incredible movie. It’s incredible. It’s a Japanese picture. It’s tabbed Tokyo Story. Did you overly see it?” This was last year. It’s interesting to me that he’s unshut to older parts of our culture.

Your films have a musicality through framing, camera movement, sounds, silences, and cutting. What informs the rhythm of your work, and what music were you hearing for this film?

The boxing scenes in Raging Bull are like the ballet scene in The Red Shoes, where everything is seen and felt from inside the ring, inside the fighter’s head, the way everything is felt and seen inside the dancer Moira Shearer’s throne in Red Shoes. So the tent of the band, singing The Weight in The Last Waltz, doing it in the studio was very much equal to the music, to the variegated bars of music and how a camera would move, et cetera.

And sometimes I play the music when on the set. In the specimen of Goodfellas, for a number of times the end of Layla was played when as we were doing the camera moves. And so for me, ultimately, the movie getting to stuff like a piece of music. That’s why this picture is increasingly like, somebody pointed out recently, like Bolero, where it starts slower and moves slowly and in circles and in circles, and then suddenly gets increasingly intense and increasingly intense, and suddenly goes increasingly and increasingly until it explodes, yeah, right?

I couldn’t verbalize it the way I am now, but I felt it in the shoot and in the edit. And a lot of the music that kept pushing me was what Robbie Robertson had put together, particularly that toned note that he was playing when when Ernest drops Mollie off for the first time at her house. She looks at him, she turns, and all of a sudden you hear boom, boom, boom, boom. I said I wanted something dangerous and fleshy. And sexy, but dangerous. And that write-up took us all the way through.

I widow some music from Harry Smith’s scrapbook of folk music – one particular piece tabbed The Indian War Whoop by Hoyt Ming and His Pep Steppers was very, very important. Bulldoze Blues by Henry Thomas, which became Going Up The Country by Canned Heat. […] But the momentum of the movie is what Robbie put down, and we pulled it through that way.