Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Eyeing a Cannes Film Festival Debut

Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is eyeing a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, potentially giving the annual celebration of cinema one of the glitziest red carpet bows of its eight-decade history.

The Apple movie, which was pursued by both Venice and Cannes toppers, may ultimately be unveiled in the South of France. Of course, there could still be a last minute change of plans by the time the lineup is unveiled in April, but it’s looking promising enough that Scorsese is even rumored to have reserved a suite at one of the posh hotels along the Croisette.

Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’ director, is preparing a massive 2023 edition and traveled to L.A. earlier this month to screen Scorsese’s movie and discuss other potential Hollywood titles. Alberto Barbera, Venice’s artistic director, was in town at the same time taking meetings with studio bosses, which led to an awkward situation even though they didn’t bump into each other, according to an industry insider.

Sources caution, however, that no formal offer has been made from Cannes and there is no final decision about whether Scorsese and company will embark on a trans-Atlantic promotional journey to France in May.

One of the aspects rumored to be weighing in favor of a Cannes rollout was DiCaprio’s desire to return to the festival, where he had a banner experience presenting Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in 2019. The movie turned out to be a box office hit, garnering 10 Oscar nominations, and earning Brad Pitt a best supporting actor nod.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” a nearly-$200 million Western with DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser and Robert De Niro, would mark Scorsese’s first return to the Croisette with a film since 1985. That year, he won the best director Palme for “After Hours.” Scorsese has a longstanding bond with the French Riviera festival. Before presiding over the jury in 1998, Scorsese presented some of his most iconic early films in Cannes, notably “Taxi Driver” which won the Palme d’Or in 1976 and “The King of Comedy,” both headlined by De Niro. Having Scorsese and De Niro back on the Cannes red carpet together for a movie would be a significant achievement for Fremaux, who battled to get Netflix to premiere “The Irishman” there in 2019. The film eventually bowed at the New York Film Festival, which was then run by Kent Jones, a close associate of the director (Jones started his career as an archivist for the Oscar-winner and has worked on several of his documentaries).

Apple financed “Killers of the Flower Moon” after winning an auction for the movie which had been originally optioned by Paramount. Under the deal, Paramount will be giving the film a wide theatrical release before it launches on the service.

But the movie’s fate in France hasn’t been sealed. France’s windowing rules restrict streamers from playing until 15 months after they’ve been released in theaters. Will Apple be willing to hold back the movie’s launch on its service for 15 months? If Apple decides to skip the French theatrical premiere (like Disney did with “Strange World” because of the windowing rules), “Killers of the Flower Moon” would only be allowed to play out of competition at Cannes. The French festival has a rule that every film in competition has to be released in French cinemas. There is a slight chance that Cannes, which has a new president, Iris Knobloch, will bend the rule that has caused the fest to miss out on major Netflix movies since 2017.

In any case, Paramount and Apple have not yet announced a release date for “Killers of the Flower Moon” in France or anywhere else, according to ComScore. That could push the film’s premiere to later in the year if a Cannes debut seems too far ahead of the planned theatrical opening. There are often debates about the wisdom of premiering awards season movies at Cannes, because some strategists believe it is too early to generate the kind of excitement needed to sustain an Oscars push. However, Cannes has hosted films such as the best picture-winning “Parasite” and current nominees like “Triangle of Sadness,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis,” all of which saw their profiles rise after bowing at the festival.

An earlier report on Showbiz 411 suggested that if Scorsese wants to head to Cannes, he’ll need to trim the film’s three hour-plus running time. But insiders say that no such cuts will be necessary. Other films have debuted with hefty lengths without issue, they note.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is based on David Grann’s non-fiction book and tracks the investigation of serial murders that plagued the Osage Nation during the 1920s after oil was discovered on their land. The murders prompted the newly-formed FBI to investigate. The movie was produced by Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas at Imperative.

The Cannes Film Festival lineup is expected to be unveiled during the third week of April. Dates for the 2023 edition are May 16-27.

Reps for Cannes and Apple declined to comment on this report.