It’s tough to imagine cinema without its enriching history of evocative, visionary actor and director collaborations. Consisting of a muse and a filmmaker bringing out and supporting each others’ strengths, these partnerships evoke the exhilarating, fruitful potentials of creative collaboration and allow us to witness the pairs’ maturation as artists over time. Among the most celebrated actor/director duos include Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder, Toshiro Mifune and Akira Kurosawa, and Max Von Sydow and Ingmar Bergman.
Notably, beloved American director Martin Scorsese has forged legendary alliances with two actors — Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio — during the first and second halves of the filmmaker’s career. Scorsese and DiCaprio have produced five memorable films together (excluding the casino-promoting short The Audition, which also features De Niro), and now Variety officially confirms that the filmmaker and actor will re-team for a sixth: Killers of the Flower Moon.
As an adaption of David Grann’s deeply compelling nonfiction book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon will focus on the infamous Osage murders in 1920s Oklahoma. After massive oil reserves were discovered under their land, the Osage people became some of the wealthiest in America. Then, one by one, members of the tribe were murdered — poisoned, blown up, shot. As the death toll climbed, the newly formed FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, took on the case and unveiled one of the most harrowing, ruthless conspiracies in US history. Screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider, the latest A Star Is Born) will adapt Grann’s bestseller.
While Scorsese and DiCaprio’s collaborations have not quite rivaled the filmmaker’s stupendous New Hollywood work with De Niro (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets), the director and actor have nonetheless proven themselves as a formidable duo since the early 2000s. Their collaborations have generated widespread acclaim, with four of their films receiving Oscar nominations for Best Picture (The Departed won the award). Together, they’ve personally received a total of eight Oscar nominations and one win for their team-ups.
DiCaprio and Scorsese first worked together on the ambitious, albeit sprawling and bloated Gangs of New York. DiCaprio then shined as eccentric recluse Howard Hughes in the terrific The Aviator. Scorsese won his long overdue Best Director Oscar for the gritty, whiplash-inducing The Departed featuring powerhouses like DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Sheen. Scorsese and DiCaprio then collaborated on the oddity that is Shutter Island before stunning audiences with the excessive and irreverent The Wolf of Wall Street, which earned nearly $400 million worldwide. With DiCaprio’s intense and introspective performance style perfectly complimenting Scorsese’s energetic, unflinching, and frenetic directorial approach, the duo’s partnership has resulted in wonderful and inventive creative territory. And Killers of the Flower Moon surely won’t be the last of their collaborations.
Killers of the Flower Moon will reunite one of cinema’s most iconic pairs — an exciting prospect in itself. What’s perhaps even more exciting, though, is how Scorsese and DiCaprio will re-join forces to render such an utterly unsettling and devastating story (we’ve been anticipating its adaptation, as true-crime junkies), one that suitably aligns with the filmmaker and actor’s sensibilities. While reflecting on Grann’s book, Scorsese remarked:
When I read David Grann’s book, I immediately started seeing it — the people, the settings, the action — and I knew that I had to make it into a movie.
Grann’s bestseller chronicles a tale of betrayal, pervasive violence, close-knit families, corruption, and hyper-masculinity; in other words, the story elicits themes omnipresent in Scorsese’s films. Thus, it’s no wonder the story resonates with the auteur. If bold and unbridled films like Raging Bull, Silence, and Taxi Driver are any indication, Scorsese will not shy away from the brutality permeating the Osage murders; rather, he will imbue the project with nuanced, shocking explorations of disconcerting immorality and disenfranchised outsiders.
Aside from his collaborations with Scorsese, DiCaprio’s past performances have showcased his skill in portraying troubled characters who occupy a gritty, gruesome world, à la Django Unchained and, for better or for worse, Blood Diamond. Scorsese and DiCaprio, therefore, are a fitting team to bring a dark chapter of American history to the silver screen. With Killers of the Flower Moon, the duo — with their mutual visceral talent and daring sensibilities — have the potential to deliver their best collaboration yet, as well as one of the bleakest, most stirring historical epics of the decade.