New movie Killers of the Flower Moon sees Martin Scorsese team up with his two muses – Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio – in the same film for the first time. De Niro and DiCaprio have many memorable scenes together in the true crime thriller, but the one that probably stands out the most features De Niro smacking Leo’s bottom. Yes, really.
Robert De Niro plays William K. Hale in the new movie, and is known locally as King, due to being the head honcho in 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma. And an essential part of being a powerful businessman at the time was to be a freemason. At one point, King’s inept nephew Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) fails to follow King’s orders as part of his extensive murder plot against the Osage tribe.
Therefore, King hauls Ernest into the mason’s inner sanctum for a humiliating punishment. In front of Ernest’s older brother Byron, King makes him bend over a wooden lectern, produces a large paddle and proceeds to spank his bottom with it. There were quite a few takes, so Leo had to cushion his caboose.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Pietro told Insider; “I do remember doing the scene quite a few times and thinking, ‘Oh, that must hurt.’ There was some padding on his butt. But you could tell De Niro was really hitting him. Leo is game for so much. He’ll do anything.”
DiCaprio first worked with Robert De Niro when he was just 18 years old, in This Boy’s Life. In fact – De Niro recommended DiCaprio to Martin Scorsese – something he’s pretty much never done before or since with any other actor. This is testament to De Niro, undoubtedly one of the best actors of all time, recognizing some of the same qualities in DiCaprio even at that young age.
Killers of the Flower Moon is based on a non-fiction book by David Grann, but the paddling scene was added for the adaptation. Now that DiCaprio is almost 50, and De Niro has just turned 80, the scene is more shocking and effective than it would be if they were both younger.
DiCaprio is older than Ernest Burkhart really was during the period covered in the film – when he was in his mid-20s to mid-30s. There are parts of the movie where DiCaprio seems possibly miscast because of this, but ironically the spanking scene is a place where his age really works and emphasizes how pathetic Ernest was. Find more of our thoughts on the movie in our Killers of the Flower Moon review.
Check out our guides to the best movies based on a true story and the best movies based on books. See if you agree with our list of the best Robert De Niro movies. We’re also looking forward to Reacher season 2 and Yellowstone season 5 part 2.