Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone conquer Cannes with a 9-minute standing ovation for “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night to the biggest and most thunderous standing ovation to date. The 3 hour, 26 minute epic explores greed, racism and a dark and largely unexplored chapter in American history. Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone star in the lead roles. The audience got so excited that they jumped up and began applauding for nine minutes after the credits rolled and the lights came on.

Cannes was clearly liking what had brought Scorsese, who returned to the festival for the first time since 1985’s ‘After Hours’, to the south of France. And that’s good news for Apple Original Films, which reportedly gave the author a $200 million budget to help realize his vision in hopes it would deliver one of his signature crime explorations. However, many of these films were set on the streets of New York. This film is set in northeastern Oklahoma, where members of the Osage Nation are being systematically murdered for sinister purposes.

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DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Gladstone and Jesse Plemons walked the red carpet ahead of the premiere, braving the rainy and overcast weather to add some sparkling glamor to the evening. Gladstone, who plays an Osage woman targeted by her greedy husband for her oil wealth, garnered rave reviews and fought back tears as audiences cheered loudly at the premiere. Oscar bloggers have already shared their performance on social media to raise awareness of the awards.

As the applause continued after the film ended, Scorsese grabbed the microphone to address the crowd. “Thank you to the Osages,” he said. “Everyone has connected to the image. My old friends Bob and Leo and Jesse and Lily. We shot that in Oklahoma a few years ago. It took some time to get here, but Apple has been a great support. There was a lot of grass. I’m a New Yorker. I was very surprised. That was an amazing experience. We lived in this world.”

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The ovation might have lasted longer if the filmmaker hadn’t been called to address the packed theater. Scorsese kept mouthing “thank you” as the crowd continued to cheer. He seemed delighted with the reaction, but made it clear that he didn’t like having the camera stuck on him (a hazard of the Cannes experience, where every movement of the A-listers in attendance is captured for posterity). Near Scorsese, the actors who played the Osage members wiped their eyes, overwhelmed with emotion.

The film’s screening started 45 minutes late, but the Palais crowd seemed unimpressed. After all, Killers of the Flower Moon was the festival’s most anticipated film and hottest tickets, one of those moments when Hollywood sends its brightest talent to the south of France to celebrate the art (and glitz) of filmmaking. And among the movie stars there were moguls. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared in Cannes to support the company’s entry into the film industry. As the film began, as the Apple banner flickered across the screen, the crowd erupted in applause, in contrast to the reception experienced at a media screening (more on that later).

Elsewhere along the Croisette, the chaotic phase in Cannes continued with a 4:30pm press screening of ‘Killers’ at the Debussy theatre, where a line snaked its way to the Club Maritime, located just behind the festival’s central hub . Journalists who arrived an hour early for the screening had to huddle outside in the pouring rain. The doors opened just 10 minutes before the start of the screening and there was a mad scramble as people elbowed their way into the auditorium. When the auditorium was full (it’s still unclear if everyone in line made it) and the lights dimmed, the film was delayed by 15 minutes.

But the festival’s unusual delay didn’t dampen the mood inside, where the press packed almost every seat in the 1,068-seat cinema and erupted in loud cheers as the film began. When the Apple TV+ logo drew some boos, one brave press representative yelled, “Hey! You paid for it!”

Overall, De Niro and DiCaprio’s unexpected comedy performance, particularly a sequence in which De Niro beats DiCaprio up with a paddle in an abandoned mason’s cottage, was warmly received with roars of laughter throughout the film. And Gladstone seemed to have stolen the film from the two vets. “She’s amazing,” gushed a viewer of her performance at a pivotal moment near the end of the film.

Based on David Grann’s 2017 book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, Scorsese’s latest book is set in 1920s Oklahoma and focuses on a murder spree across the Osage Nation. The newly formed FBI arrives on site to investigate and uncover a sinister operation. Supporting cast includes Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow (Scorsese also had a cameo, which received loud applause).

Specifically, “Flower Moon” marks the first time since Michael Caton-Jones’ 1993 drama This Boy’s Life that Academy Award winners DiCaprio and De Niro have worked together in a feature film. Both actors played fictionalized versions of themselves in Scorsese’s short film The Audition. De Niro earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actor by starring in and winning for Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Cape Fear and Raging Bull. DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for Scorsese’s The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street. “Flower Moon” marks the first time that all three collaborators have worked together on a feature film.

Scorsese worked closely with the Osage Nation during the production of “Flower Moon,” with Osage Nation boss Geoffrey Standing Bear serving as a consultant. Gladstone told Variety that the Osage Nation played a big part in shaping the film from Scorsese’s original plan.

“Work is better when you let the world know about work,” Gladstone said. “It was very refreshing how involved the production was [Osage Nation] community. The more the community became interested in our presence, the more engaged they became with the film. It’s a different film than this one [Scorsese] Almost entirely based on what the community had to say about how it was made and what was represented.”

Apple and Paramount will bring Killers of the Flower Moon to theaters on October 20th. It will then debut on Apple’s streaming service at an unspecified date.

Killers of the Flower Moon was screened out of competition at Cannes and therefore does not qualify for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest award. Scorsese won the palm for “Taxi Driver” and received a director’s award for “After Hours” at Cannes.

Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.

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