A story months in the making has finally reached its somewhat inevitable conclusion, as Apple has won a bidding war to finance and serve as the lead creative studio on the next Leonardo DiCaprio–Martin Scorsese movie Killers of the Flower Moon.
The film is based on a book by David Grann that was originally acquired by Impression Entertainment. The company spent several years developing the project before setting it up at Paramount, but in recent months, the studio had balked at the rising budget, which Collider’s own sources have said will be at least $185 million — and that’s after tax credits from the generous state of Oklahoma.
Now, Apple has a streaming service, Apple TV+, that could definitely use some more eyeballs, and the deal calls for Killers of the Flower Moon to debut on the platform following its theatrical window. However, the surprising twist here is that Paramount is still onboard to release the film in theaters worldwide. I imagine that the studio will collect a distribution fee for its troubles, it’s just weird that this film will be considered an Apple original that will be distributed by another company. Apple is either still wary of theatrical — who could blame them right now? — or this deal was simply the best they could do with Leo and Marty’s manager Rick Yorn likely trying to keep all parties happy to prevent any hard feelings — as I’ve heard there may have been with The Irishman‘s move from Paramount to Netflix.
Regardless of who pays for Killers of the Flower Moon, $185 million is a hell of a lot of money for a western, even with DiCaprio front and center. I mean, as a film fan, sign me up, but as a film reporter, this doesn’t strike me as a great business move for Apple, unless it’s about establishing a relationship with two Hollywood heavyweights. I fear that Scorsese’s experience with The Irishman taught him just how deep these streamers’ pockets are, and that they have no financial limit in their endless pursuit of awards. The Scorsese of yore would’ve made this movie for half as much — but he doesn’t have to anymore, so why would he?
When Paramount gave Yorn permission to shop the project, numerous studios and streamers lined up to get in business with Leo and Marty, and it seemed inevitable that the project would land at Apple or Netflix, the latter of which also chased it hard. Ultimately, it was Apple that came out on top, just as it did earlier this month in taking the Tom Hanks WWII movie Greyhound off of Sony’s hands.
Per Deadline, which broke the news of the Apple deal after The Ankler first hinted at budget troubles, Killers of the Flower Moon is “a mystery about a series of murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in Oklahoma in the early 1920s, after oil deposits were discovered beneath their land. The ensuing investigation established the FBI ,and was a pivotal moment in the evolution of America from its frontier era.” Eric Roth wrote the script, but apparently Paramount brass liked an earlier draft more than a recent rewrite, so the studio decided to limit its exposure and effectively put the film up for sale while retaining theatrical distribution rights.