Scorsese reveals Apple original Killers of the Flower Moon script was initially 'two hundred pages long' and took four and a half hours just to read

Killers of the Flower Moon
(Image credit: Apple)

It’s one of the most ambitious movie projects Apple has ever taken on since ramping up its Hollywood cinema interests with the Apple TV Plus platform. But the epic Leonardo DiCaprio-starring crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon was very nearly even more expansive, its director has revealed.

In interviews with Sight & Sound and The New Yorker, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese has recalled how, early on in production, the film’s original script “was going to take four-and-a-half hours just to read it.”

“Our script was over two hundred pages,” Scorsese explained to The New Yorker.

“One night we had a big reading: myself and Leo and Eric and my daughter, a number of people. The first two hours, we were moving along. The second two hours, boy, is this getting a little long in the tooth, as they say. It was just getting to be — we really ran out of energy in the story, and I wanted to tell more and more of the story, and I wanted to do more digressions, to go off on tangents, so to speak, what seem like tangents, but are not.”

The film, based on the book of the same name, explores an FBI investigation into a series of murders of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. It was only when DiCaprio suggested deviating from the book and telling the story not from the perspective of the FBI agents involved, but members of the Osage Nation, did the path into the story present itself.

“The audience is way ahead of us. I said, ‘It’s, like, we’re going to watch two and a half hours of these guys trying to find things.’ That’s a police procedural. In the book, it works; in the book, it works. But a police procedural, for me, I’ll watch it, but I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to do the plot. I don’t know where to put the pen.”

Rather than playing an FBI agent, DiCaprio in the final film instead plays war veteran Ernest Burkhart, torn between the greedy ambitions of an uncle looking to steal Osage wealth, and his Osage wife Mollie (played by Lily Gladstone). Jesse Plemon plays FBI agent Tom White, in what became a supporting role.

Killers of the Flower Moon opens in cinemas on October 20, and will exclusively stream on Apple TV Plus after its theatrical release.

More to come from Apple TV Plus

It’s not the only epic coming to Apple TV Plus in the coming weeks. Ridley Scott’s return to historical epics is also an Apple TV Plus exclusive, with the Alien and Gladiator director taking on Napoleon, the story of the genius French imperial leader.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, it too is set to land on Apple TV Plus after a theatrical run that kicks off on November 22. And it’s already slated for an extra-special Director’s Cut release when it hits Apple’s streaming service, with early reports stating it’s clocking in at four hours and 10 minutes long.

Make sure you stock up on the popcorn before you settle down in front of your Apple TV 4K later this year.

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Gerald Lynch
Editor in Chief

Gerald Lynch is the Editor-in-Chief of iMore, keeping careful watch over the site's editorial output and commercial campaigns, ensuring iMore delivers the in-depth, accurate and timely Apple content its readership deservedly expects. You'll never see him without his iPad Pro, and he loves gaming sessions with his buddies via Apple Arcade on his iPhone 15 Pro, but don't expect him to play with you at home unless your Apple TV is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. 

Living in London in the UK, Gerald was previously Editor of Gizmodo UK, and Executive Editor of TechRadar, and has covered international trade shows including Apple's WWDC, MWC, CES and IFA. If it has an acronym and an app, he's probably been there, on the front lines reporting on the latest tech innovations. Gerald is also a contributing tech pundit for BBC Radio and has written for various other publications, including T3 magazine, GamesRadar,, Real Homes, MacFormat, music bible DIY, Tech Digest, TopTenReviews,, Brandish, Kotaku, Shiny Shiny and Lifehacker. Gerald is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press, and also holds a Guinness world record on Tetris. For real.