Martin Scorcese's epic Killers of the Flower Moon is in theaters now, and the movie tells the true story of the Osage murders. After oil was discovered on Osage Nation land, the rights belonged to Osage Nation tribal members. White interlopers tried to con and steal their way to these rights, ultimately leading to murder. Journalist David Grann told the story of the murders, known as the Reign of Terror, in his 2017 book of the same name (which the movie is based on), focusing on the family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, who was married to a white man, Ernest Burkhart.
"Casting directors are among the first people who come onto a film, outside of the writer and obviously the director. So very early, especially in a Martin Scorsese film, I will start getting research material," one of the Killers of the Flower Moon casting directors, Ellen Lewis, said in an interview. ”We got home movies from the Rotary Club and home movies of the Osage from the 1920s, and photographs of people who are part of this story. But it’s not about lookalikes — I always say this, it’s not about having a lookalike, but it’s the essence. So you get a feeling for the period of the movie, and it just starts kind of formulating almost in my imagination."
Here, see how the Killers of the Flower Moon cast compares to their real-life counterparts:
Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart
The breakout start of the film is Lily Gladstone, who portrays Mollie Burkhart. Gladstone is of Siksikaitsitapi and NiMíiPuu heritage and grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. "I consider it a true gift and great responsibility to be trusted with Mollie Burkhart, and will hold her preciously with both arms, close to my heart. My most profound thanks to Osage Nation, it is a remarkable gift to be welcomed by you, and to be able to tell this story," she said after her casting.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Ernest Burkhart, who marries a local Osage woman, Mollie, at the behest of his uncle William Hale. If Mollie's family died, the headrights to the oil would pass to him. DiCaprio was initially cast as Tom White (see below), but eventually recast as Burkhart.
DiCaprio said in an interview, "Hollywood has a long history and chequered past in its depiction of Native American people/ We need to do more. You know, we are coming towards a great reckoning of our past. The more that these stories can be told in a truthful way, the more it can be a healing process."
Robert DeNiro as William Hale
Robert DeNiro plays William Hale, who proclaimed himself the "King of the Osage" and orchestrated many of the murders during the Reign of Terror.
Jesse Plemons as Tom White
Jesse Plemons took over the role of Tom White after DiCaprio was recast as Burkhart, and the story was shifted to center Ernest and Mollie. FBI agent Tom White is the one who ultimately solved the murders and is the main character in Grann's book. However, in the film, he takes a more secondary role.
Cara Jade Myers as Anna Kyle Brown
Cara Jade Myers, a member of the Wichita tribe, plays Mollie's sister Anna Kyle Brown. Anna's disappearance (which turns out to be her murder) triggers the investigation.
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