Martin Scorsese told AFP on Sunday that he had kept his film out of the main competition at Cannes because it was "time for others" to shine.

The legendary director, 80, wowed critics on Saturday night with his Native American epic ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Up to the last minute, it was unclear if it would be entered in the race for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, which Scorsese won back in 1976 with ‘Taxi Driver’.

Asked by AFP why he had ultimately opted for an out-of-competition slot, Scorsese said with a laugh: "It's time for others. I got to go. There are kids around."

"I like the golden statues. I like them very much," he added. "But now I think of time and energy and inspiration -- that's the most important thing."

The new opus charts the true story of a wave of murders among oil-rich Osage Indians in the 1920s, and was hailed as "searing", a "triumph," and a "masterpiece" by critics.

Scorsese said he didn't think of it as a period piece, and that the treatment of Native Americans was "still a wound that needs healing".

"Maybe by knowing our history and understanding where we are, we can make a difference and live up to what the country is supposed to be," he added.

Scorsese has long dreamed of making a Western.

"I was very excited when I saw horses," he said. "I didn't want to get near them, of course!"

He had one disappointment because the film was set during the prohibition era: "I always imagined going to a saloon or a bar that I was going to have great scenes... but that wasn't there."

Scorsese had considered postponing his last film ‘The Irishman’ to focus on ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’.

But he changed his mind, since ‘The Irishman’ involved some expensive special effects to de-age De Niro, Al Pacino and other stars.

"Bob pointed out that we had to de-age everyone... If we wait another two years... we were going to have a much tougher job," he said, laughing.