Martin Scorsese, a fervent admirer of classic cinema, holds “The Searchers” among his all-time favorite movies. However, he’s acutely aware of the problematic portrayal of Native Americans and the scarcity of indigenous actors in golden age Hollywood Westerns. In his latest project, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Scorsese aims to rectify this historical oversight by placing the Osage tribe at the forefront, with a substantial indigenous cast featuring talents like Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, William Belleau, and Tatanka Means.
Reflecting on the Western genre’s legacy, Scorsese acknowledges the profound influence of filmmakers like John Ford and Howard Hawks, with “Shane” standing out as the epitome of mythological storytelling. However, he also points out the pervasive unfairness in how Native Americans were portrayed in films of that era, emphasizing that they were rarely portrayed by actual indigenous actors. For instance, in “Taza, Son of Cochise” (1954), the lead role was played by Rock Hudson, rather than a Native American actor.
Originally conceived as a thriller focusing on the FBI investigation into the murders, “Killers of the Flower Moon” underwent significant rewrites to center more on the Osage victims. This dramatic shift in perspective led Leonardo DiCaprio to transition from portraying FBI agent Tom White to Mollie’s husband Ernest, played by Jesse Plemons. Despite this transformation, the question remains whether the film truly delves deep enough into the Osage perspective.
Christopher Cote, an Osage language consultant on the film, expressed his complex feelings towards the project at the premiere. He expressed a desire for the narrative to be told from Mollie’s perspective and to authentically convey her family’s experiences, but he also acknowledged that achieving this level of authenticity might necessitate an Osage filmmaker at the helm.