For those who live in a cocoon of protective ignorance and are indistinguishable from ostriches who bury their heads in sand when fearful, this article contains historical spoilers:

Most of the Osage murders happened in the early 1920s, when the principal bad guy, William Hale (1874-1962), was in his late 40s. And in the below photo he looks it — dark hair, not too middle-aged, fit and trim for a somewhat older guy.

Sentenced in 1929 to a life term for only one of the many killings he was responsible for, Hale was paroled in July 1947 and died at age 87 in the second year of the JFK administration.

In Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon, which will be shown on 5.20.23 (a bit more than four weeks hence) at the Cannes Film Festival, Hale is played by Robert De Niro, who was 77 when filming began in April 2021.

Will anyone care that De Niro was 30 years older than the real-deal Hale was in ’21? Or that Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Hale’s homicidal nephew, Ernest Burkhart (1893-1986), was around 47 and 48 during filming, and therefore Hale’s precise age at the time of the century-old killings? Burkhart was around 28 when the murders began to happen.

It’s not that crazy, of course, for actors to play a decade or two younger or older than actual historical figures they’re portraying. Viewers never give a damn one way or the other, and I will try like hell to get past this when I catch Scorsese’s film next month. Because I want to go with the flow.

But at the same time an actor being 30 years older is, I feel, a bit of a bridge too far. If you’re casting older, you should stay within a decade or two. Otherwise the general disregard for history and biology undermines the verisimilitude. If you’re going to cast a name-brand actor is his late 70s to play a guy in his late 40s, you’re free to throw caution to the winds by casting a guy in his mid to late 80s…why not, right? Scorsese could’ve theoretically cast Clint Eastwood as Hale.

He could just as easily have cast an actor in his late 20s, say, to play Hale…who cares, right?