Robert De Niro blasted Donald Trump as a “stupid” man during the Cannes Film Festival press conference for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” comparing the former president to the twisted power player he portrays in Martin Scorsese’s crime epic, which premiered on Saturday night.
De Niro admits he struggled to connect with William Hale, saying “I don’t understand a lot about my character. Part of him is sincere. The other part, where he’s betraying [the Osage tribe], there’s a feeling of entitlement. We became a lot more aware [of that dichotomy] after George Floyd with systemic racism.”
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De Niro, a frequent and vocal critic of the former president, drew parallels between his character and Trump, whose name the actor initially refused to say out loud at the press conference. “That guy is stupid,” he said.
“Killers of the Flower Moon,” one of the starriest movies to play at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of the murders that took place in the early 1920s after major oil deposits were discovered on the Osage nation’s land. The film, based on the 2017 novel by David Grann, also depicts how the newly formed FBI investigated the killings.
Lily Gladstone, who stars as Osage tribe member Mollie Burkhart, pointed out that Osage members still attended the funeral of William Hale, in denial about his involvement in the brutal murders of tribe members. De Niro, again, evoked Trump in response to that kind of blind loyalty to evil men. “There are people who still think he can do a good job. Imagine how insane that is.”
In the case of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Scorsese’s long-time collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio praised the director’s ability to capture that kind of banality of evil. “What Marty does so incredibly well is he’s able to expose the humanity of even the most twisted, sinister characters you could ever imagine.”
At Saturday night’s star-studded premiere, Scorsese was joined on the famed red carpet by A-listers DiCaprio, De Niro, Jesse Plemons and Gladstone, as well as members of the Osage nation. Before they walked into the Palais, DiCaprio and Scorsese dutifully signed autographs and took selfies with the troves of fans who were lined up in and around the Croisette. Despite its indulgent three-hour-and-26-minute, the crime epic was met with massive applause in the Palais, as Scorsese and his cast were embraced with a 9-minute standing ovation.
“It was a culmination of years of work,” Scorsese said in reference to his emotional response to the evening. Gladstone, who plays the wife of DiCaprio’s character Ernest Burkhart, received some of the loudest cheers as the credits rolled on “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Of the audience’s reaction to the film, she said “It felt very just.”
Scorsese spoke of the importance of spending time with Osage people, as well as shooting on location. “When the book was presented to me, I said if we go anywhere near Indigenous nations, we have to be very respectful,” he said.
Osage Nation chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, who served as a consultant and joined the filmmaker and cast at the press conference, believes Scorsese made good on that promise. “My people suffered greatly. And to this day, those effects are with us. But I can say on behalf of the Osage, Marty and his team have restored trust, and we know that trust will not be betrayed.”
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