Apple to Partner With Paramount for Martin Scorsese's 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Imperative Entertainment and Apple Studios will produce the pricey period crime drama that will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s high-priced period thriller that has the filmmaker’s frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star, has found a deep-pocketed partner. Apple is in final talks with Paramount to partner and produce the project, which carries a price tag of more than $150 million, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. 

The move comes after months of the project's backers looking for a way to mitigate the cost of the feature, which kept escalating. MGM and Netflix were among the potential suitors that kicked the tires.

Killers of the Flower Moon is based on David Grann's book of the same name and has a script by Eric Roth. Set in 1920s Oklahoma when the Osage Nation discovered oil under their land, the Native Americans found themselves being murdered one by one. As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case and unraveled a chilling conspiracy and one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

High cost has always been a theme surrounding the project. Imperative Entertainment picked up the movie rights to the book in 2016 for $5 million. When Scorsese and DiCaprio came on board in 2018, observers knew that the cost would be high.

And they weren’t wrong. When Paramount picked up the project in June 2019, sources say the studio was intent on making it with a price tag in the $150 million range — but then the budget ballooned to $225 million. Paramount head Jim Gianopulos pulled back the reins, with sources saying he was ready to go to a budget of $180 million.

Part of the high budget makes sense (somewhat) on paper. DiCaprio is a $20 million payday player, and Scorsese also earns in that range. Robert De Niro, who is also on board to star, would receive a payday in the $15 million range, according to sources. The involvement of those three alone puts the above-the-line budget at $55 million.

But Scorsese has a history of going over budget. His last movie, the Oscar-nominated crime drama The Irishman, cost upwards of $225 million, according to multiple sources, not the $160 million that has been widely reported. Additionally, sources say that Scorsese undertook a rewrite by himself earlier this year, another reason why the toll shot up.

With Paramount hammering down a cap, Scorsese then turned to Netflix, which backed The Irishman, personally reaching out to film head Scott Stuber. According to sources, Netflix was prepared to take it on for $215 million. But that may not have been enough. MGM considered the project before Apple finally jumped in.

The final numbers on the deal were not revealed. Apple will take the point as the creative studio and shoulder the cost, while Paramount will distribute.

The close-to-done deal follows the recent acquisition of Tom Hanks' World War II submarine drama Greyhound, which the streamer picked up from Sony.