Leonardo DiCaprio finally weighed in on the massive “Killers of the Flower Moon” rewrite that changed the direction of Martin Scorsese’s latest historical epic. The script originally centered on FBI agent Tom White, who DiCaprio was supposed to play, as he investigates a string of murders among the Osage Nation in the 1920s. That perspective kept the film in line with the majority of David Grann’s 2017 book of the same name, but something about telling “Flower Moon” from the FBI’s point of view did not sit right with DiCaprio or Scorsese.
“It just didn’t feel like it got to the heart of it,” DiCaprio recently told British Vogue in a joint interview with co-star Lily Gladstone. “We weren’t immersed in the Osage story. There was this tiny, small scene between Mollie and Ernest that provoked such emotion in us at the reading, and we just started to penetrate into what that relationship was, because it was so twisted and bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
Ernest is Ernest Burkhart, a World War I veteran who is pulled into his uncle’s greedy plot to rob the Osage Nation of its wealth. When the original script for “Flower Moon” was axed, DiCaprio switched roles to Ernest. The new script would focus on Ernest and his relationship to wife Mollie (Gladstone), an Osage woman whose family members are murdered. With DiCaprio playing the lead role of Ernest, Jesse Plemons stepped in to play FBI agent Tom White, now a supporting role.
“After a certain point, I realized I was making a movie about all the white guys,” Scorsese recently told Time magazine about why the film went through an extensive rewrite. “Meaning I was taking the approach from the outside in, which concerned me.”
“Before the rewrites, I had three pages of some pretty mouthy dialogue,” Gladstone told Interview magazine earlier this month. “But I was struggling so much with the scenes that when COVID shut everything down and the project went quiet for a minute, I assumed that I’d blown the audition. About a year later, I got a request to Zoom with Martin Scorsese. And then I got new sides sent to me that had beats. Suddenly it was a scene that had minimal dialogue…And I was like, ‘Oh man, I can plug a character in here now. This is amazing.’”
“The focus would’ve been the FBI, with Mollie and Ernest being part of the supporting storyline, instead of the central one,” Gladstone added about the original “Flower Moon” script. She previously told Vulture that the rewrite meant the film “is not a white-savior story. It’s the Osage saying, ‘Do something. Here’s money. Come help us.’”
DiCaprio told British Vogue that Scorsese “just instinctively knew” that Gladstone was the perfect actor to tackle Mollie.
“There was a truthfulness in your eyes that he saw even over a computer screen,” DiCaprio added. “I’ve never known [Scorsese] meet somebody and then immediately afterwards have this gravitational pull and instinct to say, ‘Let’s not wait another minute.’”
“Killers of the Flower Moon” opens in theaters nationwide Oct. 20 from Apple and Paramount.
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