Martin Scorsese Rights a Grave Wrong After Marlon Brando’s Revolutionary Move in 1973


  • Being an avid enjoyer of Westerns growing up, Martin Scorsese felt complicit in the pain and misrepresentation of Native Americans in Hollywood.
  • It wasn't until the epilogue, in which he reads Mollie's obituary, that Scorsese finally felt a sense of atonement.
  • Back in '73, Marlon Brando spoke out against Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans by sending American Indian actor Sacheen Littlefeather on his behalf to reject the honor.

Since the ’30s, Hollywood narrowed down the Native Americans to regressive stereotypes, predominantly in Western. And it wasn’t until a few decades back that new filmmakers started to go against the tide. With Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese, who grew up loving those Westerns from that era, felt kind of complicit in the pain and misrepresentation of Native Americans.

And it wasn’t until Killers of the Flower Moon that the filmmaker finally right the wrongs of the old-age Hollywood problem after Marlon Brando made a statement back in ’73 by declining his Oscar.

Also read: Beverly Hills Cop: Martin Scorsese Turned Down Eddie Murphy’s Evergreen Franchise Because of Clint Eastwood

Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese on the set of Killers of the Flower MoonLily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese on the set of Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese Finally Felt Atonement After Filming Killers of the Flower Moon’s Epilogue

Back in 2017, Martin Scorsese started working on Killers of the Flowermoon, which was set to be based on David Grann’s 2017 book of the same name. However, considering Scorsese and screenwriter Eric Roth initially approached the story from the perspective of FBI Agent Tom White, the director realized he was doing a grave wrong by not making Osage the center of it.

Killers of the Flower MoonKillers of the Flower Moon

While revamping the script, Martin Scorsese and Eric Roth decided to make Lily Gladstone’s Mollie, a wealthy Osage woman who finds herself entangled in the horrors of the killings, the heart of the story. Scorsese further recasts Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart, who ends up marrying Mollie. And it wasn’t until filming the epilogue that Martin Scorsese felt “an acknowledgment, an atonement” in which he plays a radio announcer reading Mollie’s obituary, which is shot as an old-time radio play. He said (via THR),

“It all came. It landed on my shoulders, and I felt it… I felt an acknowledgment, an atonement. I loved that art form at that time in the ’40s and ’50s, I did. I don’t feel regret. It’s how I grew up, but I have to acknowledge it. I mean, here I am doing this. It’s still, in effect, the story of suffering that you turn into entertainment. A kind of entertainment I’d hope would have a richness and depth that could sustain for a long time. That’s all. And in which case, then, I’m to blame. I’m there.” 

Prior to Scorsese righting the wrongs of the industry, which limited American Indians to stocks for decades, Hollywood icon Marlon Brando made a statement about it by not accepting his Oscar in ’73.

Also read: “Maybe it requires a woman”: Sharon Stone Wants Martin Scorsese to Cast More Women, Stop Focusing on Just Leonardo Dicaprio, Robert De Niro

Marlon BrandoMarlon Brando

The Reason Marlon Brando Rejected His Oscar

The 1973 Oscar is not remembered for Marlon Brando’s win, which was almost a guarantee following his performance in The Godfather, but for American Indian actor Sacheen Littlefeather. Littlefeather, who walked to the stage and declined the Oscar on Brando’s behalf, stated The Godfather Star won’t be accepting the honor following Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans.

“Hello, my name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache, and I’m the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image committee. I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you a very long speech which I cannot share with you presently because of time… He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award, and the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television and move reruns.”

Also read: “I would’ve made something interesting”: Martin Scorsese Broke Silence on His Godfather Sequel Despite Francis Ford Coppola Wanting Him to Direct

Sacheen Littlefeather Sacheen Littlefeather | 1973’s Oscars

While the Academy did reach out to Littlefeather with their long overdue apology decades later for the vicious response she garnered from many attendees that night, it was a little too late for that.

Killers of the Flower Moon is available to stream on Apple TV.

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Leonardo DiCaprioLily GladstoneMarlon BrandoMartin ScorseseSacheen Littlefeather


Written by Santanu Roy

Santanu Roy is a film enthusiast with a deep love for the medium of animation while also being obsessed with The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Platters. Having expertise in everything related to Batman, Santanu spends most of his time watching and learning films, with Martin Scorsese and Park Chan-wook being his personal favorites. Apart from pursuing a degree in animation, he also possesses a deep fondness for narrative-driven games and is currently a writer at Fandomwire with over 1000 articles.