Killers of the Flower Moon, a film that will reunite Martin Scorsese with both Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, was supposed to start filming in March of this year. That didn’t happen, thanks to the coronavirus. And it seems that screenwriter Eric Roth has used that delay to work on rewrites for the film – rewrites requested (or perhaps we should say “demanded”) by DiCaprio. It was previously rumored that the film ran into behind-the-scenes issues when DiCaprio decided he wanted to play a different character. Now it looks like Roth is confirming those rumors.
It’s been a bumpy road to get Killers of the Flower Moon to the screen. Martin Scorsese had hoped to start shooting the film this year, but the coronavirus got in the way. Meanwhile, Paramount, the studio originally set to release the flick, got nervous. As the story goes, the Paramount execs were balking at both the film’s ballooning budget and at Leonardo DiCaprio’s request to switch characters. As a result, Apple swooped in to rescue the project.
Killers of the Flower Moon is based on a true story, but if you’re unaware of the history of what happens within its pages, we’re about to enter spoiler territory here, so be warned. Keep reading only if you’ve read the book or don’t mind knowing some major plot points.
As I reported back in May of this year: “When the project was still being put together, DiCaprio was set to star as the film’s hero. If the movie adaptation is sticking true to the book, and the true story that inspired it, that indicates DiCaprio was going to play a Texas Ranger named Tom White who was tasked with investigating a series of murders plaguing the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s.” However, during pre-production, DiCaprio decided that he wanted to “portray villain Robert De Niro’s nephew, torn between love and the evil machinations of his uncle.”
All of this was speculation, but now, screenwriter Eric Roth has more or less confirmed it during the Script Notes podcast (via IndieWire). “Leonardo [DiCaprio] wanted some things changed that we argued about,” Roth said. “He won half of [the arguments]. I won half of them. So that’s happening.”
Roth added that the film would likely start shooting in March 2021, and also said: “I spent four or five years on this book, Killers of the Flower Moon, which everybody should read. It’s a wonderful book. My screenplay I think was accurate to the book. It’s the story of Osage Indians, 1921, the poorest people in America who discover oil in this terrible land in Oklahoma where they’ve been driven to. Then every killer in America comes to kill 184 of them for their money, but this really heroic guy comes in [to help].”
Roth doesn’t go into any more details regarding what the rewrites changed, but he implies that the script is now 50% different from the version he originally wrote. There’s no release date set for the film yet, but if it really starts shooting in March of 2021 we probably won’t see it until the end of 2021 at the earliest.
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