‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Writer Says Arguments with Leonardo DiCaprio Forced Script Changes

Roth says filming is eyeing a March 2021 start, exactly one year after cameras were originally supposed to begin rolling.
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio at arrivals for National Board Of Review Awards Gala 2014, Cipriani 42nd Street, New York, NY January 7, 2014. Photo By: Gregorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio
regorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection

Eric Roth’s screenplay for “Killers of the Flower Moon” is continuing to be rewritten as Martin Scorsese’s next crime epic waits until 2021 to begin filming. Cameras were originally set to start rolling on “Flower Moon” in March 2020, but the pandemic forced the project to delay. News broke in August the “Flower Moon” production would start in February 2021, but Roth says on the latest episode of the “Script Notes” podcast that March 2021 is a more likely start date. Roth also confirms the rumors that Leonardo DiCaprio fought to rewrite Roth’s original draft.

“I spent four or five years on this book, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ which everybody should read. It’s a wonderful book,” Roth said. “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 continued, “That’s supposed to start filming in March once the Covid clears out, and it’s Martin Scorsese. They’ll be continuing rewrites with that. Leonardo [DiCaprio] wanted some things changed that we argued about. He won half of [the arguments]. I won half of them. So that’s happening.”

Rumors about “Flower Moon” script drama have percolated since May, when The Hollywood Reporter published a story explaining that DiCaprio’s overhaul of Roth’s original script was the primary factor in Paramount Pictures’ decision to sell the film to Apple. In Roth’s version of the film, DiCaprio was starring as the hero, a federal agent working for the newly-established FBI, who heads to the Osage Nation to solve a series of murders. DiCaprio pushed to revise the script so he would take on the nephew of the villainous killer played by Robert De Niro.

Per THR: “In the revised version, DiCaprio would portray villain Robert De Niro’s nephew, torn between love and the evil machinations of his uncle. A source with knowledge of the situation says Paramount felt that turned the film into a moody and less commercial character study…Once Scorsese and DiCaprio revised ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ Paramount empowered DiCaprio’s longtime manager, Rick Yorn, to shop the project. No doubt the studio hoped no one would tackle it, which might persuade Scorsese to come back to the original idea and the hoped-for budget.”

Roth originally adapted David Grann’s book of the same name for the project. Based the screenwriter’s “Script Notes” podcast interview, it appears the “Flower Moon” version going into production in 2021 will only be 50 percent of the original vision he had in store for the movie. Listen to the full podcast interview here.

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