'Killers of the Flower Moon' begins filming in Oklahoma
Filming is set to begin in Oklahoma on Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," an eagerly anticipated film that is expected to make state history while chronicling one of its tragic chapters.
The Oklahoma Film + Music Office and Apple Original Films announced Monday afternoon that principal photography on “Killers of the Flower Moon” was set to begin on Monday in Oklahoma, where filming will be centered in Bartlesville, Pawhuska and Osage County.
Hailing from Apple Studios, the film is being directed and produced by Scorsese, an Academy Award-winning icon known for movies like "The Irishman," "The Departed" and "Taxi Driver."
"We are thrilled to finally start production on 'Killers of the Flower Moon' in Oklahoma,” said Scorsese in a statement. "To be able to tell this story on the land where these events took place is incredibly important and critical to allowing us to portray an accurate depiction of the time and people. … We’re excited to start working with our local cast and crew to bring this story to life on screen and immortalize a time in American history that should not be forgotten."
Scorsese expressed gratitude to the Osage Nation consultants and cultural advisers who have helped prepare the production for the shoot, which is expected to continue through the summer.
Adapted from David Grann's 2018 New York Times best-seller and National Book Award finalist “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI," the film will chronicle the murders of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma, after the oil boom made them rich. The brutal killings became known as the "Reign of Terror" and the center of a major investigation by the then-fledgling FBI.
"My biggest hope with the project for the book was that it would fill in some of these blanks in our consciousness. A book can reach so many people, but a movie can reach even more. And I think it's in the hands of people who seem to really care about getting it right, about being sensitive and being authentic," Grann told The Oklahoman in a 2020 Oklahoma City interview.
"The decision to shoot here in Oklahoma, I think, is a really important step in that direction."
"The Osage, I always say they know their history intimately," Grann added. "They know this part of their history; they know what happened. But there were far too many of us who didn't."
Along with helping the production to scout numerous sites across the state, tribal leaders introduced the filmmakers to cultural historians, local artisans and Osage Nations citizens to help ensure the film portrays the real-life story honestly and authentically. Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear named Chad Renfro the tribe's ambassador to the production.
“In recent meetings with Oklahoma Senators and House of Representative Members I made the point of how much their support for the movie industry has made a difference,” Standing Bear said in a statement. “The funding from the State of Oklahoma along with the efforts of the Osage Nation have proven to be a big draw for this film in particular.”
Although production was delayed a year due to the pandemic, interest is arguably as intense as ever as filming begins on "Killers of the Flower Moon," which boasts a cast of Hollywood A-listers, respected indigenous actors and even a couple of Grammy Award winners. The high-profile project will reunite Scorsese with Oscar-winning icons Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio —two of his frequent collaborators who have never been in one of his feature films together.
The cast also includes Primetime Emmy Award nominee Jesse Plemons ("Fargo," "Black Mirror"); indigenous actors Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion and Tatanka Means; and singer-songwriters Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson.
In a recent interview with Collider, Roth, who has been working on the project for about five years, called "Killers of the Flower Moon" "one for the ages."
With its reported $200 million budget, Scorsese's eagerly awaited fact-based Western is believed to be the biggest movie production ever undertaken in Oklahoma — and with the industry still trying to come back from the pandemic, it may be the biggest movie made in the United States this year.
“Hosting Oklahoma’s largest motion picture in state history is about to begin and it means a lot to the state of Oklahoma to bring this film to its historical origin, which is already impacting rural communities and small businesses in huge ways,” Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said in a statement.
The project has been conditionally pre-qualified to utilize the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program administered by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, which has been working to ensure the movie could film in historically accurate Oklahoma locations, since the screen adaptation rights were first secured in 2016.
The Oklahoma Film + Music Office has also partnered with Apple Studios to help fill hundreds of production jobs for the project and curate a crew development program with a mission to provide basic industry-standard training and on-the-job experience to further expand the local workforce in Oklahoma’s film industry.
So far, dozens of production assistants have been hired to join this program, participating in mentor sessions with “Killers of the Flower Moon” crew. It is one aspect of the four-part series that will kick-start the participants’ professional development while working on the high-profile project.
While in Oklahoma, the production is expected to spend millions of dollars with local businesses through hotel room bookings, construction materials, equipment rentals, catering and more.
"We're an oil town, plus tourism, sports and recreation, all of those pieces contribute to our visitor dollars. We definitely, along with the rest of the country, had a very slow year last year. And now we're getting people that are … calling and saying, 'Why can't I book a room?'" Visit Bartlesville Executive Director Maria Gus told The Oklahoman.
Early estimates for "Killers of the Flower Moon" indicate an economic impact of $24 million, including $10 million dollars in projected visitor spending, more than $367,000 in sales tax generated and about $150,000 in lodging tax, according to Gus.
Plus, the Bartlesville Development Authority is leasing Apple Studios a large space in the former Siemens building as a production headquarters.
"This is a really unique situation in … a film of this size and magnitude in the state of Oklahoma," Gus said.