‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Design Team Felt a ‘Personal Challenge’ to Tell the Osage’s Story Correctly | How I Did It

Production designer Jack Fisk and costume designer Jacqueline West unpack their authentic approach to the Oscar-nominated Apple film

Authenticity was top of mind when Martin Scorsese and his team set about creating the world of “Killers of the Flower Moon.” The Oscar-nominated film, which is in contention for Best Picture, Director, Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score and Original Song at the Academy Awards, aims to capture the tragic true story of the murders of several Osage in 1921 Oklahoma, and the film’s design team went to great lengths to do service to the tale at hand.

Set during a time when indigenous peoples in the area were tremendously wealthy owing to oil discovered on their land, “Killers of the Flower Moon” chronicles the horrendous series of murders that were designed to transfer ownership of the land back to white people, all told through the eyes of Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) and her husband Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio).

“History is fascinating, and you can’t begin to design a film until you know about the people and their backgrounds,” production designer Jack Fisk said in TheWrap’s latest installment of How I Did It, presented by Apple Original Films.

Fisk, whose filmography includes “There Will Be Blood,” “Days of Heaven” and “The Revenant,” said his first order of business was designing Mollie’s house, which plays a central role in the film.

“I needed to know what her house was like to understand her family,” he said. “When I read David Grann’s book, he suspected what her house might’ve looked like, but he never found it. I found what I think was the house in Gray Horse but it was too small to shoot in. But I picked an Osage house that had outside porches so I could put beds on it for sleeping, and in every bedroom we put two or three beds because the Osage would gather for dances and parties and they would just come and stay with their family and friends.”

Jacqueline West, the film’s costume designer, took particular interest in the blankets that adorned the Osage characters.

“Julie, my Osage consultant, she calls it the Osage mink coat because they were treasured,” West — whose expertise ranges from “Dune: Part Two” to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — said of the designs. “But I always thought of it as armor. When Mollie would put it on to go into this town, it was us the Osage against you in your suits and ties.”

When it came to putting together the costumes for DiCaprio’s Ernest, West took inspiration from Tom Mix, Hollywood’s first Western star and actor in over 200 films from the early days of cinema. “I felt he would identify as a quasi-cowboy because of his uncle’s cattle ranch,” she added.

While the production set up shop in northeast Oklahoma where the events depicted actually took place, movie magic was needed to transform the landscape back to 1921. Some existing structures could be reworked, but Fisk couldn’t find a train station that fit for the film’s big opening sequence – so he built one.

“It was fun creating a train station because we couldn’t find one that looked like that,” he said. “And that was with the same plans of the train station in Fairfax.”

In casting the extras that populated each scene, Scorsese and his team found real descendants of those depicted in the film – many of whom wore pieces of clothing from their family members.

“Marty sort of gave us marching orders, he wanted it as real and natural as possible and as true to the Osage story,” Fisk said of the overall theme of the production. “That was great because I would like to approach it almost like a documentary, so I think it became our personal challenge to tell their story correctly.”


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