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‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Rewrites Cut Down ‘Three Pages of Dialogue’ for Lily Gladstone’s Audition; She Lost 30 Pounds During Six-Month Shoot

Lily Gladstone spoke to her “Certain Women” director Kelly Reichardt for Interview magazine (before the SAG-AFTRA strike) and confirmed reports that Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” underwent significant rewrites during its development. The script changed so much that the scene Gladstone was given for her audition got reduced from three pages of straight dialogue to “a scene that had minimal dialogue.”

“Before the rewrites, I had three pages of some pretty mouthy dialogue,” Gladstone said about the “Flower Moon” audition process. “But I was struggling so much with the scenes that when COVID shut everything down and the project went quiet for a minute, I assumed that I’d blown the audition. About a year later, I got a request to Zoom with Martin Scorsese.”

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“And then I got new sides sent to me that had beats,” she continued. “Suddenly it was a scene that had minimal dialogue — it was that dinner scene, the first date where Mollie [Gladstone’s character] is feeling out Ernest [Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and her husband in the film]. And I was like, ‘Oh man, I can plug a character in here now. This is amazing.’ Because I’d heard that the rewrites completely did a 180. Leo was supposed to be playing Tom White, Jesse Plemons’s character.”

Gladstone seemingly confirmed early reports that said the original plan for “Flower Moon” was for DiCaprio to play Tom White, an FBI agent who investigates murders among Oklahoma’s Osage Nation. DiCaprio allegedly did not want to play a straightforward hero, so the script was rewritten for him to play the morally grey Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of a greedy ranch owner. The rewrite put Ernest and his wife, Mollie (Gladstone), at the center of the story.

“The focus would’ve been the FBI, with Mollie and Ernest being part of the supporting storyline, instead of the central one,” Gladstone said about the original “Flower Moon” script. She previously told Vulture that the rewrite meant the film “is not a white-savior story,. It’s the Osage saying, ‘Do something. Here’s money. Come help us.’”

During her Interview magazine chat, Gladstone told Reichardt that “Flower Moon” shot for a whopping six months. She spent the “first six weeks doing in-person community building, which was so necessary for any of this to have been done right.”

“There’s a significant chunk of the film there where Mollie is not well. So we’re not seeing her as often,” Gladstone added. “The wasting illness. I had a couple-week hold for the very restrictive diet and exercise plan that I was on to get there. [Laughs] I accomplished an almost 30-pound weight loss during that time.”

Despite the film’s heavy subject matter, Gladstone made it a priority not to stay in character. She noted that during one scene in which she had to have an emotional breakdown, she started cracking up as soon as Scorsese yelled cut.

“It was remarkably light and fun, given what the content was,” Gladstone said. “It felt like we had that responsibility working with the Osage community. It’s their world we’re coming into and I feel a responsibility for people to have a good time and have good memories of being on set.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” opens in theaters nationwide Oct. 20 from Apple and Paramount.

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