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Martin Scorsese has one major problem with classic Westerns

Martin Scorsese has a new movie out partially inspired by classic Westerns, but he acknowledges their depictions of Native Americans left a lot to be desired.

Rock Hudson playing a Native American in Taza Son of Cochise

Martin Scorsese is famously a lover of classic cinema, and a huge part of American film history is the Western. The Searchers is one of Scorsese’s favorite movies, but a problem he acknowledges with Westerns from the golden age of Hollywood is their depiction of Native Americans and the lack of Native American actors that were cast in them at the time.

In Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon, the Osage tribe in Oklahoma is at front and center, and it has a large indigenous cast including Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, William Belleau, and Tatanka Means. But in an interview from the Cannes release of the new movie, Scorsese spoke about the limitations of even the best Westerns from the 50s and 60s.

“The most beautiful [western mythology] came from John Ford and Howard Hawks, and then, of course, there’s Shane (1953), which is the most mythological. But there were movies we grew up watching where the Native Americans were for the most part depicted unfairly,” he told Deadline.

Scorsese continued; “I think one of the problems in the genre is that none of the Native Americans are played by Native Americans. I mean, in Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), the star is Rock Hudson.”

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Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese initially wrote Killers of the Flower Moon as a thriller movie which focused on the FBI investigation into the murders, with DiCaprio set to play FBI agent Tom White (now played by Jesse Plemons). The script was then substantially reworked to become more of a drama movie focusing on the Osage victims, with DiCaprio swapping roles to Mollie’s husband Ernest. But does it goes far enough with that perspective change?

Christopher Cote, an Osage language consultant on Killers of the Flower Moon, spoke about his complicated feelings towards the movie to THR at the premiere; “As an Osage, I really wanted this to be from the perspective of Mollie [Lily Gladstone’s character] and what her family experienced, but I think it would take an Osage to do that.”

Check out our Killers of the Flower Moon review from Cannes, which praises Gladstone, “who manages to shine bright with a performance of subtlety and grace” and adds that she “has a magnetic screen presence.”

We’re also looking forward to finally seeing Yellowstone season 5 part 2.