killers of the flower moon

For most of the 2010s, Paramount has been in the Martin Scorsese business. The studio distributed Scorsese’s films Shutter Island, Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence before balking at the price tag of The Irishman (Netflix scooped that one up and will release it later this year). But Paramount wants to finish out the decade with another Scorsese movie: the studio will finance and distribute Killers of the Flower Moon, a project which will reunite the director with his frequent leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio.

At the same CineEurope convention where he announced a new Paranormal Activity film is in the works, Paramount chief Jim Gianopolous also announced (via Deadline) that the studio has officially closed a deal to distribute Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon movie, getting them back in the Scorsese game after the filmmaker took a two-movie sojourn over to Netflix (his other film, the Bob Dylan documentary Rolling Thunder Revue, is streaming on that platform now).

Oscar-winning writer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider) wrote the screenplay based on The Lost City of Z author David Grann’s book, which is titled Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Roth’s script sparked a bidding war that resulted in a company called Imperative Entertainment locking it down for $5 million before the book was even published, and now the project has an official studio home.

Here’s the book’s official synopsis:

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

There’s no word yet on which part DiCaprio will play, but since he previously portrayed the FBI director on film in 2011’s J. Edgar, it seems unlikely he’ll step into those shoes once again. As Paramount continues its struggle to find and capitalize on recognizable IP properties at the box office, it’s heartening to see them still making crime dramas like this (even if they are with some of the biggest names in the business).

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