Is Killers of the Flower Moon based on a true story?

Killers of the Flower Moon
Killers of the Flower Moon /

The first trailer has been released for Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated Killers of the Flower Moon. While it looks like a gripping tale, is this drama based on a true story as it claims? Find out.

Let’s kick things off with the cast. Originally, Scorsese intended to have Leonardo DiCaprio play Tom White, the Texas Ranger who went undercover to break the murder ring. Instead, DiCaprio chose the role of Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of Hale, who’s played by longtime Scorsese collaborator Robert DeNiro. Jesse Plemons will play White.

Also starring in the film is Lily Gladstone as Mollie Kyle, the Osage woman who Burkhart married as part of the scheme. Fresh off his Best Actor Oscar win, Brendan Fraser is a lawyer for Hale with John Lithgow as a prosecutor. Also starring are Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, William Belleau and Louis Cancelmi.

Is Killers of the Flower Moon based on a true story?

The film is based on the 2017 non-fiction best-seller Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. In the early 1920s, the Osage Native American tribe in Osage County, Oklahoma, discovered huge oil deposits on their land. They managed to win a court case that should have earned them millions from selling the oil.

However, cattleman William Hale masterminded a plot to gain control of the oil by murdering several of the Osage tribespeople. That included his own brother-in-law, along with other relatives. Officially, twenty tribespeople were killed, but Grann’s book suggested it might be in the hundreds that went unreported due to bigoted police officers looking the other way.

The case brought in the just-founded FBI with the first major murder investigation for the Bureau. Eventually, Hale and some other landowners were convicted of corruption. However, it’s speculated that many others were involved and got off scot-free thanks to the attitudes toward the native tribes at the time combined with the mass greed for the millions of dollars in oil rights.

Meanwhile, the entire case would inspire laws to protect the rights of Native Americans, with the Osage settling with the Department of Interior in 2011 for $380 million in unpaid oil royalties. It was a major event that’s not been covered, which is why this movie is such a big deal.

The movie, set to be three and a half hours long, should strike a balance between the FBI investigation and Burkhart’s struggles in this scheme to bring a stunning true story to life.

Killers of the Flower Moon premieres wide release on October 20.

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