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‘Flower Moon’ Writer Clears Up Casting Shuffle: DiCaprio and Plemons’ Roles ‘Pretty Equal’

Screenwriter Eric Roth says Martin Scorsese is "trying to make a movie that's probably the last Western that would be made like this."

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jesse Plemons

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jesse Plemons


Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited Western drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” is finally going into production next month with a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, and Lily Gladstone. Plemons’ casting announcement in February generated buzz for the project as the “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” actor stepped into the role originally written for DiCaprio. The casting change led to questions around who is the actual lead of Scorsese’s new film, but “Flower Moon” screenwriter Eric Roth recently told Collider that just because Plemons took over DiCaprio’s original role does not mean DiCaprio has shifted into a supporting space a la his “Django Unchained” performance.

“I wouldn’t say [Plemons is] the lead,” Roth said. “I would say that he was the designated hero. But yeah, I think that’s fairer because I think the parts are pretty equal and they were always equal to a certain extent, and Leo’s part is very complicated and very interesting. It’s a smart part for a smart actor to play. I mean, if Montgomery Clift was alive, I think he might think of playing him.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” centers on the investigation into a series of murders of wealthy Osage people that took place in Osage County, Oklahoma in the early 1920s. Plemons is starring as Tom White, the lead FBI agent investigating the murders. The character is the film’s traditional hero, which is why it was originally conceived for DiCaprio when “Flower Moon” was set up at Paramount Pictures. DiCaprio had more interest in playing Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of a powerful local rancher (De Niro). DiCaprio’s interest in switching roles is reportedly part of the reason Paramount sold the $200 million production to Apple.

Back in November 2020, Roth teased the script changes taking place behind the scenes when he said on an episode of the “Script Notes” podcast, “Leonardo [DiCaprio] wanted some things changed [in the script] that we argued about. He won half of [the arguments]. I won half of them.”

“I think this is my fifth year or sixth year on it,” Roth told Collider this month. “And there were some changes that came about that were interesting about what Leonardo was going to play in it. I think in the long run — we all had our moments of trying to figure out how best to portray things because the story is so impactful — and I think we ended up with exactly the right material and that Marty made the right decisions. I just think he’s going to make — and obviously I would say this — but I think [of] all my work, this one could be one of the great movies. I really mean that. I think it has all the ingredients, which I don’t want to jinx it, but the story is so important.”

Roth continued, “I know Marty’s trying to make a movie that’s probably the last Western that would be made like this, and yet, with this incredible social document underneath it, and the violence and the environment. I think it’ll be like nothing we’ve ever seen, in a way. And so this one is, to me, one for the ages.”

With production starting in May and running through the summer, expect “Killers of the Flower Moon” to be released in 2022.

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