Jason Isbell on Killers of the Flower Moon and Why Robert De Niro Thought He Was “Crazy”

"It took him a few days to figure out that this is really how I talk"

jason isbell flowers of the killer moon robert de niro scorsese
Robert De Niro in Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple TV+) and Jason Isbell (photo by Danny Clinch)

    Robert De Niro kept giving Jason Isbell funny looks. The Oscar-winning actor and Grammy-winning musician from Alabama were working together on the set of Martin Scorsese’s new movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, but Isbell felt like they got off on the wrong foot.

    “I said, ‘I’m really happy to meet you, and I’m looking forward to watching your work and glad to be part of this.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy,” Isbell tells Consequence as part of our latest cover story. “And it took me a few days to realize: He thought I was doing some kind of method thing where I was like, a character all the time. And it took him a few days to figure out that this is really how I talk.”

    Eventually, Isbell says, De Niro “didn’t look at me like I was from outer space. You know, he was much warmer. And he was a nice guy.”

    Isbell is a veteran songwriter, with eight original albums to his name including his latest, WeathervanesBut before stepping onto Scorsese’s set in northern Oklahoma, his main experience with acting had come in a guest role on Billions. When it came time to act alongside such legends as De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, “I was terrified,” he recalls.


    He sought to literally work through his fear, starting with the primary text, David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. “I went back and found every piece of information that I could find on all of the characters and I read the source material,” Isbell explains. “And then I went back and looked at public records from Oklahoma at that time and found what happened to these characters — these people — after the end of the story.”

    He remembers having “no idea what I was doing.” But the feeling only lasted until “it occurred to me that I’ve never seen a Scorsese movie and thought, ‘That was great, except for that one redneck who fucked it all up.’ So they weren’t gonna let me be the one redneck who fucked it all up, you know?”