Robert De Niro really spanked Leonardo DiCaprio in that Killers of the Flower Moon scene

One of the few humorous moments in Killers of the Flower Moon involves a paddle, a Masonic lodge, and an Oscar winner’s butt — and the events that unfold in the scene were more real than you might expect.

In the middle of Martin Scorsese’s new Western drama, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) clumsily enacts a half-witted assassination plan that ends in disaster, and his uncle William King Hale (Robert De Niro) disciplines him with a surprising punishment: The crime lord makes his nephew bend over and repeatedly whacks him on the behind with a wooden paddle.

The film’s cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, told Insider that De Niro was actually spanking DiCaprio on set. “There was some padding on his butt. But you could tell De Niro was really hitting him,” he said. “I do remember doing them quite a few times and thinking, ‘Oh, that must hurt.'”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’. APPLE ORIGINAL FILMS
Prieto, whose other credits include Brokeback Mountain and Barbie, said the spanking scene wasn’t included in early drafts of the Flower Moon screenplay. “I don’t think that was in the first script,” he recalled. “That was something that was added, and it’s shocking in the film.”

The director of photography saw DiCaprio’s physical commitment to the scene as a sign of his openness as a performer. “Leo is game for so much,” Prieto said. “He’ll do anything.”

Perhaps the scene allowed De Niro to channel some frustration with his costar into his performance as well. Scorsese previously said that he and De Niro occasionally became irritated by DiCaprio’s improvisatory performance style. “Every now and then, Bob and I would look at each other and roll our eyes a little bit,” the filmmaker said. “And we’d tell [DiCaprio], ‘You don’t need that dialogue.'”



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