More new information about the new Killers of the Flower Moon deal struck at Apple reveals script changes to Leonardo DiCaprio‘s role apparently factored into the previously struck Paramount deal’s end. Earlier this week, we learned the new Martin Scorsese-directed project had moved from Paramount to Apple, with the budget on this historical drama inflating from $180 million to an even more eye-popping $200 million, give or take.
A report from The Hollywood Reporter shedding light on this new deal point toward important script changes to DiCaprio’s character as a key source of friction between the studio and the team of DiCaprio and Scorsese, both of whom have been involved with the big screen adaptation of David Grann‘s book of the same name since Imperative Entertainment bought the rights to the book in 2016. Paramount initially scooped up Killers of the Flower Moon, allotting around $180 million for the budget (plus a tax credit from New Mexico) but hoping Scorsese would be able to make the movie for $150 million — something hoped for in theory more than any expectations actually being spelled out, per THR.
The report then goes on to say the Paramount deal entered choppy waters when DiCaprio and Scorsese began making changes to the Oscar-winning actor’s role. Originally, DiCaprio was slated to play an agent with the then-nascent FBI sent to investigate the murders now known as the Osage Nation Murders in 1920s Oklahoma. But, changes made now reportedly have DiCaprio taking on a villain (or possibly an antihero) role in the piece as the nephew of co-star Robert DeNiro‘s shady villain character, a man torn between duty to his uncle’s schemes and love. These changes reportedly left Paramount a bit cold, with the studio worrying Killers of the Flower Moon would be “smaller scale” as it re-focused into a moodier character study but with the “same [big] budget” that would ostensibly be hard to recoup at the box office given the movie’s new tone.
With the project now at Apple and an even bigger budget, it seems those changes will remain intact, with DiCaprio playing the villain nephew to DeNiro’s villain mastermind. (What this $200 million could be going toward in the making of a historical drama which doesn’t outwardly require a bigger scale than, say, past Scorsese historical dramas or similar ilk, like Gangs of New York or The Age of Innocence, is beyond me.) It’s worth noting that, even though Apple now has its name front and center on the deal and is handling production costs, a theatrical release plan for Killers of the Flower Moon is still in place and Paramount will front marketing costs and will get a distribution fee based on box office performance. So, ultimately, Paramount still has some skin in the game on the success of Killers of the Flower Moon and its new tone thanks, in part, to DiCaprio’s new role, even if Apple is taking the reins.