- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

CANNES, France — They would have loved to get the whole film, but Cannes Film Festival organizers were grateful enough to get 20 vivid minutes of "Gangs of New York," Martin Scorsese's long-awaited, still-unfinished epic with a high-voltage cast and a budget to match.
Mr. Scorsese brought along two of his stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, for Monday's sneak preview of the 19th-century drama, one of the most anticipated events of this year's festival. Fans waved signs saying, "Welcome, Leo."
The audience in the grand Lumiere theater, packed with the likes of Sharon Stone, Juliette Binoche and director David Cronenberg, appeared to like what was shown: a huge period production with street brawls, blood feuds and knife-throwing.
The all-star cast includes Liam Neeson, Jim Broadbent and most notably Daniel Day-Lewis, lured out of semiretirement, who appears set to steal the show.
The two-hour, 40-minute film is set for release at Christmas a year after it originally was expected to hit theaters. At a news conference, Mr. Scorsese and Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein didn't deny reports that they have sparred over the length of the film, but they did try to play down those reports.
"Listen, I'm an excitable person," Mr. Scorsese said, "and Harvey is a colorful person, too."
The director said there always have been delays during the editing of his films and this, he said with understatement, "is a big film."
Mr. Weinstein did not mention the film's reported $90 million to $100 million budget but said: "We spent some money on this film because we wanted to create the kind of old-time movie that we don't see anymore."
The movie is set in the early 1860s, during the Civil War. While the United States was in danger of being torn apart, another war was raging in lower New York City in the Five Points, one of the toughest slums in the world, between gangs that included the Plug Uglies and the Swamp Angels.
The war pitted Irish immigrants, arriving daily by the thousands, against nativists, who opposed immigration and saw the Irish as interlopers. "This was a time for testing the idea of what America was supposed to be," Mr. Scorsese said.
Mr. Day-Lewis plays Bill the Butcher, a nativist and the powerful leader of the Five Points. Years earlier, Bill killed the revered Irish immigrant Priest Vallon in front of Vallon's son, Amsterdam.
After 15 years in a reform house, Amsterdam (Mr. DiCaprio) returns to the neighborhood to take his revenge.
He quickly realizes he must infiltrate Bill's inner circle. As he does, he meets pickpocket Jenny Everdeane (Miss Diaz), who has a past with Bill.
For Mr. Scorsese, the film is one more in a canon of works focused on New York, from "GoodFellas" to "After Hours" to "The Age of Innocence."
He told Monday's audience that the stories on which "Gangs of New York" is based have been in his heart and mind since he was 10 years old, in downtown New York.
"These stories permeated the walls and the cobblestones of the streets," he said.

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