Culture / Entertainment

Texas Painter Helps Martin Scorsese Tell His Latest Epic — Killers of the Flower Moon and Its Haunting Art

Artist Marlowe Monfort Hermanovski's Role in an Monumental Movie Undertaking

BY // 07.25.21

It’s a daunting honor to be tapped by Oscar-award winning director Martin Scorsese to serve in any creative capacity. Renowned as directorial master, Scorsese is known to be exacting and precise about his quintessential period pieces, which include Raging Bull, The Aviator, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York and The Irishman. His new film, Killers of the Flower Moon, is no exception.

When Dallas-based painter Marlowe Monfort Hermanovski was chosen to work as a set painter on Scorsese’s $200 million movie, she took it all in self effacing stride. Never cowed or awed by big name celebrities, the down-to-earth painter just keeps working in her studio, perfecting her rich, figurative pieces on the canvas.

“This is certainly an epic undertaking. It is energy-consuming. He’s (Scorsese) looking to tell a very specific story,” Hermanovski tells PaperCity. “Dark things happen in this film. It’s not meant to be Hollywoodified. It’s been interesting listening to how they make decisions about color.”

Hermanovski is no stranger to set painting for large film productions. Her luminous, painterly impressions can also be seen in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.  Before her collaboration with Anderson, Hermanovski painted murals for Asian restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s for nearly 20 years. It was a serendipitous experience stumbling onto this unexpected career path in film.

“So I got into this by just saying yes to someone who needed a painter on a TV show,” Hermanovski says. “Then it led to painting a backdrop for a Wes Anderson movie. It’s definitely opened up my eyes to a whole other career and a way of living that I didn’t think so much about.

“There are so many people in this industry who go from to movie and movie.”

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Sushi With Leo

Working on the set of Killers of the Flower Moon takes things up a notch. After all, she is working with Scorsese and true A-list stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Still, Hermanovski doesn’t flinch when it comes to Hollywood luminaries.

They’re just people who are trying to tell a story, she says.

“I did end up eating in a sushi restaurant in Tulsa, and it just happened Leonardo DiCaprio was going to eat also, “ Hermanovski says. “That night, Leonardo actually did sit at our table. It was weird because it was strangely normal. It was just like meeting a friend of a friend. That’s what it felt like.

“We talked about the documentary, My Octopus Teacher. He was just a normal person who was also looking for good places to eat while he was here, which has been a trial.”

Killer of The Flower Moon Leonardo DiCaprio
“Killers of the Flower Moon” puts Leonardo DiCaprio into a Native American story that needs to be told.

For Hermanovski, the days of shooting a movie can be relentless and long, but the work has been intrinsically satisfying.

“I’m up early,” she says. “You have to be up at the warehouse signing in at 6 am for the construction and paint crew. So far the backdrops have been most satisfying, because I’ve been working with the photographer Stephen Berkman.

“He’s great. The rest of it’s been interesting, but others have been working on them. Three of those backdrops were just me.”

Not only has it been a privilege to work on this epic film undertaking for Hermanovski, but it’s also a responsibility for her to help tell the story behind Killers of The Flower Moon. The movie is based on New Yorker writer’s David Grann’s nonfiction book about the 1920s brutal murders of Osage Nation Native Americans to steal their oil head rights.

“It’s really important for me for me to be a part of this,” Hermanovski says. “I have Cherokee tribal card. . . This active participation in a widespread plot to kill Native Americans, it’s just disgusting.

“Some have told me that people were uncomfortable with this story being told. Some don’t want to bring it all up again. But the story is better out than in.”

The strict attention to detail and integrity of telling the Osage Nation’s story is profoundly illustrated on the set. Even before production on the movie began, DiCaprio met with the members of the Osage Nation to ensure the film would depict and portray their story with truth and transparency.  The movie is currently in production in Pawhuska, Oklahoma near the site of Fairfax, where a series of horrific murders targeting Osage Nation Native Americans took place in the 1920s.

“I’m much more impressed by the craft of making a movie now, especially a period piece,” Hermanovski tells PaperCity. “The attention to detail for costuming and the way the Osage Nation wants to be portrayed.  The color should be authentic to the time and the look should be authentic. The whole idea of a movie — every single thing like costumes, backdrops, scenery has to be a certain way.”

Paintings You Could Walk Into

What deeply inspires Hermanovski about painting murals and backdrops for film or her own creative pieces is the subtle play of light and color.

“I like a sense of humor in abstract works,” she says. “It has to have a story. I like technique. I like to figure out the layers and technique in a painting. I love beautiful paintings. I like paintings that look like you could walk into them.”

Marlowe enjoying the tall grass prairie near Pawhuska on her day off from the production, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Photo credit: Marlowe Monfort Hermanovski)

So what’s it truly like working with a visionary director? Oh, there are tales to tell about working with Scorsese. Hermanovski has a story to share about a brush with the elusive Scorsese — and an accolade she didn’t quite anticipate.

“Funnily enough, I was working on my painting tonight and the set painter told me that Marty Scorsese was in the room earlier and saw my painting, and he really liked it,” Hermanovski says. “Of course, she’d already been in there about two hours and never said anything about it. This is pertinent information, people!”

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