It’s déjà vu all over again for Martin Scorsese and Paramount Pictures. A couple of years ago, the legendary filmmaker and the major studio were teaming up on his ambitious crime epic The Irishman. But as the budget ballooned due to the extensive visual effects needed to de-age the central characters, Paramount grew concerned over the financial prospects of the movie and allowed Scorsese to shop it elsewhere. Netflix picked it up in a hurry, and gave Scorsese carte blanche. Indeed, the filmmaker says no other studio would have allowed him to stretch the running time to that three hours and 30 minutes mark, but Netflix did.
And now it appears Paramount is once again concerned with the budget of a new Scorsese project, this time Killers of the Flower Moon. The Oscar-winning director had been readying the film to start production in Oklahoma this spring, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro starring. The true story chronicles one of the first cases the FBI ever investigated, the murders of Osage Native Americans in Oklahoma in an effort to remove them from valuable oil-rich land.
Per the Wall Street Journal, the budget has reached $200 and Paramount is unsure of the viability of the film at the price, and thus has given Scorsese the go-ahead to shop the project elsewhere. The paper reports that Scorsese has had discussions with both Netflix and Apple about having them produce and release the drama.
This kind of makes sense. Studios have only grown more worried about ambitious storytelling at the box office, instead filling out their slates with blockbusters and known IP. And even with DiCaprio in the lead role, Scorsese has made clear he’s not making a crime thriller. He’s described the film as more of a Western that examines the culpability of all white people in the murders and erasure of Native Americans. Indeed, the killing of the Osage Native Americans was an open secret at the time, but everyone turned a blind eye.
That’s not exactly a “murder mystery” that’s easily marketed, and could be a better fit for Apple or Netflix where Scorsese doesn’t have to worry about box office. In fact, Scorsese and Paramount fought over the running time of The Wolf of Wall Street, with the studio demanding the film not run longer than three hours. Which is why that movie is three hours exactly.
We’ll see what happens. Everything is on hold right now anyway, but don’t be surprised if we learn that Scorsese is reteaming with Netflix in the near future. The streaming service would no doubt be thrilled to be able to boast of a new original starring Leonardo DiCaprio.