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'Killers of the Flower Moon' cinematographer recalls how an owl provided the movie's 'magical moment'

Lizzie talking to Mollie in Killers of the Flower Moon
(L-R) Tantoo Cardinal and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon."Apple TV+
  • A powerful shot in "Killers of the Flower Moon" features an own flying directly into the camera lens.

  • Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto told BI that the owl was not trained to do that and acted on its own.

  • "I think this magical moment happened because the ancestors of the Osage were present," he said.

There are numerous memorable visuals in Martin Scorsese's epic "Killers of the Flower Moon," but one in particular happened by complete accident.

Forty-five minutes into the movie, which focuses on a series of murders of Osage Nation members in 1920s Oklahoma, a single camera shot goes through the rooms in Mollie Burkhart's (Lily Gladstone) massive house and ends on her mother, Lizzie (Tantoo Cardinal), resting in a chair off the dining-room area.

Suddenly, there's a shot of an owl flying up to a window in the house.

owl in window in killers of the flower moon
Apple TV+

Lizzie opens her eyes to see the owl perched on the window in an empty room.

owl flies in killers of the flower moon
Apple TV+

It then flies directly into the camera.

owl up close in killers of the flower moon
Apple TV+

Lizzie is in shock.

We then see Mollie walking over to her mother. The room Lizzie saw is now full of people eating a meal.

"Did you see the owl?" Lizzie asks Millie.

"No," her daughter responds.

"When you do, it's a sign that we're dying," Lizzie says.

Soon after, the sudden deaths of Mollie's family begin.

The shot of the death owl was put into the movie when it was rewritten to focus more on the Osage Nation, according to the movie's Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto.

Rodrigo Prieto and Martin Scorsese standing next to each other
"Killers of the Flower Moon" cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and director Martin Scorsese.Medios y Media/Getty

"When Scorsese would learn rituals and things from Osage he would incorporate them, and we kept trying to figure out when to put in the owl," Prieto told Business Insider at the time of the movie's theatrical release.

Finally, they decided the right time would be during the scene in Mollie's house and brought in the owl. The owl's wrangler was told that the bird just needed to fly into the empty room.

"The owl wrangler was right on top of the lens with a little treat so the owl would look toward the camera," Prieto recalled. "That's all we wanted. We're all set. I have the shot in a high contrast look, the lighting is all ready, and here comes the owl. We're all quiet, and he flies and perches on the window. Then we were hoping the owl would just come into the room."

Turns out, the owl had a different plan for his cameo.

Owl in a bedroom
The owl also appears later in the movie, visiting Mollie when she's very sick. Apple TV+

"Suddenly, the owl flies right toward the camera because that's where the wrangler was. That was unexpected," Prieto said. "Fortunately, my focus puller was ready and followed focus, so we got the shot."

Everyone was excited that they got a better shot than what they intended. But Prieto doesn't believe it was a happy accident. For him, capturing such a powerful visual — the owl flying seemingly right toward the audience — had to be recognized as an act beyond filmmaking.

"I do think there's magic out there that we don't understand, and I think this magical moment happened because the ancestors of the Osage were present and pushed the owl toward the camera," Prieto said. "I do believe in these things. I think things happened like that because this movie was meant to be told."

"Killers of the Flower Moon" is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Read the original article on Business Insider