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Why De Niro Paddles DiCaprio In Killers Of The Flower Moon Explained By Scorsese-TGN


  • Martin Scorsese confirms that the paddle did break in a jarring scene between Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, emphasizing the necessity of including rituals from both the Osage and European cultures.
  • The paddle scene highlights the power that De Niro’s character, William Hale, holds over DiCaprio’s character, Ernest Burkhart, showing the extent to which Ernest is willing to be controlled and commit vile acts.
  • Scenes like the paddle scene make Ernest more sympathetic, depicting him as a man whose evil actions stem from ignorance and the allure of power, adding complexity to his character in the film.



Martin Scorsese explains one jarring Killers of the Flower Moon scene between Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Killers of the Flower Moon is receiving universal acclaim, including praise for the lead performances from both DiCaprio and De Niro. The film marks the first time that De Niro and DiCaprio starred together in a Scorsese feature, after both being long-time Scorsese staples.

As per The Playlist, Scorsese responds to rumors that De Niro broke a wooden paddle that he used to hit DiCaprio’s character in a shocking scene in the well-received Killers of the Flower Moon. After confirming that the paddle did indeed break, Scorsese went on to explain the necessity for the scene, saying that he wanted to include “the ritual of the European” as much as he included “the ritual of the Osage.” This scene, the director felt, “was kind of almost like a frat boy hazing situation” used to demean Ernest in the film. Check out the quote from Scorsese below:

It should have broken. It should have been flying or something. We wanted to get the ritual of the Osage. I also wanted to have the ritual of the European and part of that was KKK. It doesn’t always have to be negative, it just happened to be, and also the Masons. And part of that was kind of almost like a frat boy hazing situation where it was a kind of infantile action in a way like treating him like a child…and I did more Masonic stuff, but I couldn’t get it in the film the right way because that was out of nowhere when that happened.

Why The Paddle Scene Is Important for Ernest Burkhart’s Character

In Killers of the Flower Moon, De Niro and DiCaprio play uncle and nephew, respectively. De Niro is William Hale, a cold, and controlling man who will do anything to steal land and power from the Osage people. DiCaprio depicts Ernest Burkhart, husband to Mollie Burkhart who is complicit in the sinister killings being enacted by Hale and his team. Throughout the film, audiences bear witness to the hold that Hale has over Ernest, as the uncle encourages his nephew to commit vile acts, including drugging his wife and murder.

The paddle scene in question is no exception, as it showcases that Hale has so much hold over Ernest that he will go so far as to enact physical punishment onto him. It is scenes like this that make DiCaprio’s character more sympathetic in Killers of the Flower Moon. Without them, Ernest’s role in the Osage murders is more thoroughly evil, and his love for Mollie, for instance, is less believable.

Related: Killers Of The Flower Moon Ending Explained: The Osage Murders Trial & Outcome

Ernest is not by any means forgivable for his actions. His malevolence is still palpable, as he is an accomplice in copious murders, including those of his wife’s family members. Scenes like the ritualistic paddle scene do, however, paint Ernest as a man whose evil stems from ignorance, and from the allure of power that persists once he gets in far too deep. Ernest’s turbulent relationship with Hale is part of what makes Killers of the Flower Moon portray its characters so dynamically, and Scorsese’s quote shows that the director clearly scripted this very consciously.

Source: The Playlist

  • Killers of the Flower Moon

    Killers of the Flower Moon

    Martin Scorsese

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Louis Cancelmi, Jillian Dion, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons, JaNae Collins, Robert De Niro, Jason Isbell, Cara Jade Myers, Lily Gladstone


    History, Drama, Crime

    Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese

    Killers of the Flower Moon is the next film from director Martin Scorsese, based on the non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, initially captured by David Grann. When members of the Osage tribe are murdered in the 1920s via mysterious circumstances shortly after the discovery of oil on Native-American soil, the FBI is established to uncover the true reason behind them.

    $200 million

    Paramount Pictures

    Apple, Paramount Pictures

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