Robert De Niro frowns as William Hale in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

‘How Dare They Do That?’ Robert De Niro Refused To Let His Gotham Awards Speech Be Censored

At this year’s Gotham Awards, held Monday, November 27, Killers of the Flower Moon received the Historical Icon and Creator Tribute—a new honor meant to recognize significant historical moments brought to the screen with care and authenticity.

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It’s pretty outrageous, then, that Robert De Niro’s speech presenting the award, in which he tied the atrocities the Osage community faced in the film and in history to their ongoing mistreatment in entertainment and politics today, was reportedly heavily censored.

In the video of his speech, you can tell that De Niro seems confused while reading from the teleprompter. After cutting to a video from Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, who worked extensively with director Martin Scorcese during production on Killers of the Flower Moon, the camera came back to De Niro.

“I just want to say one thing,” he told the audience. “The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out, I didn’t know about it, and I want to read it.” After being met with cheers, he read his original speech from his phone:

History isn’t history anymore. Truth isn’t truth, and even facts are being replaced by alternative facts and driven by conspiracy theories and ugliness. In Florida, young students are taught that slaves developed skills that could be applied for their personal benefit. The entertainment industry isn’t immune to this festering disease. The Duke, John Wayne, famously said of Native Americans, ‘I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.’

Lying has become just another tool in the charlatan’s arsenal. The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he’s keeping up the pace with his current campaign of retribution. But with all of his lies, he can’t hide his soul. He attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature, and shows his disrespect, for example, using ‘Pocahontas’ as a slur.

That last bit was, of course, a reference to Donald Trump’s flippantly racist nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Scrolling hastily through the rest of the speech and getting to the point where he was clearly supposed to thank the film’s studio (Apple) and the awards body, he said, “I’m gonna say these things, but to Apple and thank them and all that, Gothams, blah, blah, blah, Apple—but I don’t feel like thanking them at all after what they did. How dare they do that, actually?”

Apple hasn’t responded to requests for comment, to either confirm or deny that the company had a hand in censoring De Niro’s speech. It’s incredible that anyone thought they could censor De Niro’s political statements and he would just be fine with it. This award is supposed to celebrate the careful and compelling handling of a true story of racism, abuses of power, and systemic atrocities—and whoever had the power to cut the speech thought it would be acceptable to censor attempts to draw relevant comparisons to our own political landscape. It’s such an extremely Republican-coded move, I guess it’s no wonder they didn’t like hearing what De Niro had to say.

In addition to the Historical Icon and Creator Tribute, Lily Gladstone won the award for Outstanding Lead Performance—though not for Killers of the Flower Moon. Instead, she won for her role in Morrisa Maltz’s The Unknown Country.

(featured image: Paramount Pictures / Apple Original Films)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.