Do You Need To Read David Grann’s ‘Killers Of The Flower Moon’ Before Watching The Scorsese Movie?

Some have a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to movies: If it’s based on a book, best to read the book first. With some films, it’s a bit more complicated. Someone who hasn’t read David Grann’s best-selling 2017 non-fiction tome Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI probably won’t be lost watching all 3 ½ hours of Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed adaptation. But they may be missing some details given that Scorsese and team decided to do something the book does not.

Last month, both Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, one of its stars and executive producers, opened up about how they effectively inverted the source. In his book, Grann devotes most of the focus — the second and largest section — to the federal investigation into a spate of mysterious deaths amongst an enclave of Native Americans in Oklahoma who’d gotten wealthy on oil money. To the filmmakers, the first script felt like it took the wrong tack.

“After a certain point, I realized I was making a movie about all the white guys,” Scorsese told Time. “Meaning I was taking the approach from the outside in, which concerned me.”

“It just didn’t feel like it got to the heart of it,” DiCaprio said to British Vogue about the original script. “We weren’t immersed in the Osage story.”

So instead of playing Tom White, the former Texas Marshal who leads the federal investigation into the deaths, DiCaprio switched over to Ernest Burkhart, a white man who marries Lily Gladstone’s Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who watches as family and friends are killed off, then becomes gravely ill herself. Perhaps

As DiCaprio explained, “There was this tiny, small scene between Mollie and Ernest that provoked such emotion in us at the reading, and we just started to penetrate into what that relationship was, because it was so twisted and bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

So should you read Killers of the Flower Moon before you see Killers of the Flower Moon? Up to you! It might help to know certain things about the federal investigation — including some fascinating stuff about the early days of policing and private investigators — that Scorsese and team might not have had time to put in their already epic movie. Or maybe you can do that after you’ve seen what critics are calling another stunning picture from one of cinema’s biggest cheerleaders.

Killers of the Flower Moon hits theaters on October 20.