Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon is the movie everybody is talking about this month. His searing examination of the Reign of Terror that targeted Osage Native Americans in the early 1920s is a slow, unrelenting retelling that utilizes some of the biggest talent in Hollywood. (And we’re not talking about Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.)
Yes, Martin Scorsese might have reunited with two of his long-time collaborators for the new movie, but the real star of the show is someone unexpected. Really unexpected. In fact, one of the most haunting roles in the drama movie is, in fact, played by an owl.
If you’ve already seen Killers of the Flower Moon, you’ll know that the owl in question appears in two key scenes and serves as a symbol of approaching death towards Lily Gladstone’s Mollie Burkhart. But this isn’t any old bird — this is a genuine owl performer known as Eli.
Eli is a Eurasian eagle-owl, who lives in St. Louis with her trainer, Donovan Meeks. Winning the role in the Scorsese movie wasn’t an easy task, since Eli had to beat out five other birds for the job. But it worked out in the end, and when the time came for Eli to film her scene, it stopped even the biggest Hollywood star in his tracks.
“Leonardo DiCaprio actually stopped his part of the movie just to come over and watch,” Meeks explained.
During the movie, Eli appears in two scenes: one in which Mollie’s mother, near death, has a vision of an owl flying in through the window, which stops and stares at her before it flies right towards her (and us). This moment is then echoed in a later scene in which Mollie is slowly being drugged by her husband, Ernest.
The second scene is one of the more on-the-nose moments of foreshadowing in the movie, wherein Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest walks into the room, more or less standing where the owl (the warning of death) just was.
Eli’s role has captured the attention of audiences, which is a pretty immense achievement considering she’s going up against Oscar winners. Someone even made the effort to create a fake ad for an owl popcorn bucket, mimicking the now famous Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour buckets.
While Eli’s scenes in Killers of the Flower Moon are effective, there’s also plenty to love about the movie, and, for many, it’ll likely stand as one of the best movies of the year. Entrancing cinematography and an eclectic use of vintage footage boost what could have been an incredibly slow-going drama. Lily Gladstone delivers a career-making performance, and the supporting cast are delivering on all fronts.
In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Scorsese movie winds up sweeping award nominations left and right. And who knows, maybe we’ll wind up seeing Eli make an appearance at the Oscars. (Hey, they did it with the donkey from The Banshees of Inisherin!)
For more, check out our full Killers of the Flower Moon review. You can also take a look at the other best movies based on a true story and see who we’ve voted as the best actors of all time. (Spoiler alert: there are no birds on there.)
For more Marty, you can also find out why Martin Scorsese says he is “build differently” to Quentin Tarantino and why Scorsese has one major problem with classic Westerns.