Michael Buckner for Variety
Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” premiered to the biggest and thunderous applause ever at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night. A 3 hour 26 minute epic of greed, racism and a dark and largely unexplored chapter of American history, stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone. This got the crowd so excited that they jumped to their feet and started clapping for 9 minutes after the credits rolled and the lights went up.
Cannes clearly loved Scorsese’s return to the festival, bringing him to the south of France for the first time since 1985’s “After Hours.” That’s good news for Apple Original Films, which gave him a $200 million budget to realize his vision. However, many of those films took place on the mean streets of New York. The film is set in northeastern Oklahoma, where members of the Osage Nation are being systematically murdered for nefarious purposes.
DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Gladstone and Jesse Plemons walked the red carpet ahead of the premiere, braving the rain and overcast weather to inject some glam glamor into the evening. Gladstone, who plays an Osage woman targeted by her greedy husband for resources, received standing ovations and fought back tears as the crowd cheered loudly at the premiere. On social media, Oscar bloggers are already tapping her performance for possible awards attention.
The applause continued after the film ended, and Scorsese took the mic and addressed the crowd. “Thank the Osages,” he said. “Everyone is attached to the film. My old friends are Bob and Leo, and Jessie and Lily. We shot it a couple of years ago in Oklahoma. It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has done us the best. There was a lot of grass. I’m a New Yorker. I was very surprised. It was an amazing experience. We lived in that world.
Had the filmmaker not been invited to speak to a packed theater, the fanfare might have lasted longer. Scorsese kept mouthing “thank you” as the crowd continued to cheer. He seemed buoyed by the response, though he made it clear he didn’t like having the camera on him. Around Scorsese, actors playing Osage members wiped their eyes and passed out emotions.
The screening of the film started 45 minutes late, but the crowd at the Palais was undisturbed. After all, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is the most anticipated film of the festival and its hottest ticket, one of the moments when Hollywood sends bright talent south to France to celebrate the art (and glitz) of filmmaking. And movie stars had knees. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, appeared at Cannes to support the company’s approach to filmmaking. As the film opened and Apple’s banner flashed across the screen, the crowd clapped and cheered (more on that later), in contrast to the reception at the media screening.
Elsewhere on the Croisette, Cannes’ chaotic streak continued with a press screening of “Killers” at the Debussy Theater at 4:30 p.m., with a line-up to Club Maritime, which sits behind the festival’s central hub. Journalists who arrived an hour before the screening were forced to wait outside under cover in the pouring rain. The doors opened 10 minutes before the screening was scheduled to begin, sparking a mad scramble as people clamored to enter the theater. By the time the auditorium was fully seated (it was still unclear if everyone in line had entered) and the lights dimmed, the film was running 15 minutes late.
However, the festival’s uncharacteristic delay didn’t dampen the mood inside, where the press occupied every seat in the 1,068-seat theater and erupted into raucous cheers when the film opened. When the Apple TV+ logo caused some fanfare, one intrepid journalist said, “Hey! They paid for it!”
Overall, De Niro and DiCaprio’s unexpected comedic performances, especially the scene where De Niro sweeps DiCaprio with a paddle in a deserted Mason’s lodge, are warmly received with laughter throughout the film. Gladstone appeared to have stolen the image from two vets. “She’s amazing,” an attendee gushes of her performance at a key moment near the end of the film.
Based on David Gran’s 2017 book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” Scorsese’s latest is set in 1920s Oklahoma and focuses on a series of murders on the Osage Nation. The newly formed FBI arrives on the scene to investigate and uncovers a sinister operation. The supporting cast includes Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow.
“Flower Moon” marks the first time Oscar-winners DiCaprio and De Niro have worked together on a film since Michael Caton-Jones’ 1993 drama “This Boy’s Life.” Both actors played fictional versions of themselves in Scorsese’s short film “The Audition”. De Niro earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor for his roles in Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” “Cape Fear” and “Raging Bull.” DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for Scorsese’s “The Aviator” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “Flower Moon” was the first time the three collaborators worked together on a feature.
Scorsese worked closely with the Osage Nation during the production of “Flower Moon,” with Osage Nation Chief Jeffrey Standing Bear serving as a consultant. Gladstone said Variety The Osage Nation played a large role in shaping the film from Scorsese’s original plan.
“Work is better when we let the world inform the work,” Gladstone said. “It was really refreshing how involved the production was [Osage Nation] Social. As the community embraced our presence, the community became more engaged with the film. It’s a different film [Scorsese] It began to develop almost entirely because of what society had to say about how it was created and what it portrayed.
Apple and Paramount will release “Killers of the Flower Moon” in theaters on October 20. It will then debut on Apple’s streaming service at an unspecified date.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” was screened out of competition at Cannes, so it won’t be eligible for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest prize. Scorsese won the Palme d’Or for “Taxi Driver” and the directing prize at Cannes for “After Hours.”
Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.