It appears as though Martin Scorsese’s relationship with Apple TV+ will extend beyond his next movie Killers of the Flower Moon. Per Deadline, the iconic filmmaker has signed a first-look, multi-year deal for film and television projects through his Sikelia Productions banner with Apple TV+. This includes projects that Scorsese will produce and direct, and signals the shifting landscape between traditional film studios and streaming.
Indeed, Sikelia Productions had previously been set up at Paramount Pictures, which released Scorsese’s Hugo, Shuttler Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence. But in recent years, Scorsese had been undergoing some creative battles at the studio as the film landscape shifted more towards superhero movies and blockbusters. Silence wasn’t exactly a box office smash, and Scorsese was contractually obligated to ensure that Wolf of Wall Street would be no longer than three hours. Paramount was originally developing Scorsese’s The Irishman before letting Scorsese take the project to Netflix when the budget got too high, and then Paramount most recently backed out of Killers of the Flower Moon over similar budget disputes.
Apple picked up Killers of the Flower Moon and is ready and willing to pony up the $200 million needed for the budget, and thus Scorsese has now set up shop at the tech company for future projects. For a director like Scorsese this makes sense — his movies are expensive because his development, production, and post-production periods are lengthy, but in the end he always comes away with a film no one else could have made. He’s a singular talent, so I think he’s earned the right to make what he wants the way he wants to.
Flower Moon is based on the David Grann book of the same name, which tells the true story of a series of murders of Osage people in Oklahoma in the early 1920s. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are attached to star, and while the film was supposed to begin filming in Oklahoma this past March, it’s now set to start shooting in February 2021 following the COVID-19 shutdown. Paramount was apparently not only nervous about the budget but also the most recent draft of the script, which Scorsese worked on with Eric Roth – instead of being an FBI “investigation” story, it now shifted to a darker and more introspective drama. Without having to worry so much about the box office, Scorsese and his collaborators are free to really dig into the troubling themes at the heart of Grann’s book.
It’ll be interesting to see what else Scorsese makes with Apple and what kind of theatrical distribution those films get. At the very least we can rest assured he’ll have the creative and financial freedom to really let loose.