Paul Schrader has a casting quibble with the latest Martin Scorsese picture.

It’s by now the stuff of “Killers of the Flower Moon” lore that Jesse Plemons and Leonardo DiCaprio eventually swapped roles for Scorsese’s epic about the systemic killing of Osage people in 1920s Oklahoma. Plemons plays Bureau of Investigation agent Thomas Bruce White Sr., who shows up in the film‘s last third, while DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, a dimwitted pawn in the murders and the husband of Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone). Eric Roth originally wrote the role of White for DiCaprio, who instead pushed to play Ernest, nephew of the film’s primary villain, William King Hale (Robert De Niro).

In a recent interview in Le Monde, ever-candid “First Reformed” director and “Taxi Driver” screenwriter Schrader said he would’ve preferred the casting’s original configuration. “Marty compares me to a Flemish miniaturist. He would be more the type who paints Renaissance frescoes,” Schrader said (translation via Variety). “Give him $200 million, a good film will inevitably come out of it. That said, I would have preferred Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role of the cop in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ rather than the role of the idiot. Spending three-and-a-half hours in the company of an idiot is a long time.”

Plemons’ character casts a larger shadow in the original nonfiction book by David Grann, with the movie focusing less on the BOI’s investigation into Hale’s reign of terror than on the marriage between Ernest and Mollie and the suffering of the Osage people. Scorsese has spoken openly about changing the script in pre-production to concentrate less on the film’s white antagonists. “We touched upon it after having myself and Eric Roth and all of us together trying to get the story expressed from the point of view of the Bureau of Investigation coming in,” Scorsese said at Cannes where the Apple film premiered. “And I said, ‘I think the audience is ahead of us. They know it’s not a whodunnit, it’s who didn’t do it.”

Schrader, meanwhile, a longtime friend of Scorsese’s, is a vocal critic of the latest films on his Facebook page. In terms of 2023’s offerings, he’s praised Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” as “the best, most important film of this century” while criticizing Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest” as “more like a parlor trick than an exploration.”

The New York Film Critics Circle recently named “Killers of the Flower Moon” the best film of 2023. Scorsese will accept the honor at the Manhattan awards ceremony on January 3. The film is also now available on VOD and digital, with an Apple TV+ streaming date coming sometime in 2024.

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