Gangs of New York (2002) Poster


Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Spoilers (4)
Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally broke Daniel Day-Lewis' nose while filming a fight scene. Day-Lewis continued to film the scene despite the injury.
Martin Scorsese ends the film with a shot of the New York skyline which includes the World Trade Center Towers, even though the film was finished after the buildings were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Scorsese chose to end with that shot because the movie is supposed to be about the people who built New York, not those who tried to destroy it.
Daniel Day-Lewis became so uncomfortable with the greasy hairstyle he wore as Bill the Butcher that he shaved his head immediately after filming completed.
Most of the gangs mentioned by name were real 19th-century New York gangs. Bill "The Butcher" Cutting is based largely on real-life New York gang leader Bill Poole, who also was known as "The Butcher" and had much the same prestige as Daniel Day-Lewis' character.
Bill's hard "New Yok" accent wasn't entirely fabricated. Martin Scorsese did some research by listening to a voice recording of Walt Whitman and by reading an old play in which the dialog was spelled out phonetically.
Bill the Butcher is a rabid opponent of Abraham Lincoln. In one scene he throws a knife at a picture of the president. Day-Lewis would play Lincoln in Lincoln (2012) ten years later.
The name "Dead Rabbits" has a second meaning rooted in the Irish-American vernacular of 1857. The word "Rabbit" is a phonetic corruption of the Gaelic word ráibéad, meaning "man to be feared". "Dead" is a slang intensifier meaning "very." "Dead Ráibéad" thus means a man to be greatly feared.
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio both took salary reductions to preserve the budget.
Martin Scorsese hired "The Magician", an Italian man famous for a 30-year career as a pickpocket, to teach Cameron Diaz about the art of picking pockets.
Bill the Butcher has a scene with every main and supporting character in the film, a symbol of his vast influence in the Five Points.
When Boss Tweed considers sex with a prostitute, Bill The Butcher warns him that she's been "frenchified," a 19th-century term for venereal disease.
To simulate Bill the Butcher's fake eye, Daniel Day-Lewis had his own eyeball covered in prosthetic glass. Day-Lewis learned to tap his fake eye with the tip of a knife without blinking.
The draft riots depicted in the film are largely accurate, but the real-life Bill "The Butcher" Poole was killed several years before the riots took place.
During filming Daniel Day-Lewis talked with his film accent during the entire time of production, even when he was not on the set.
The original cut of the film ran an hour longer.
When the film was first conceived in 1978, Martin Scorsese planned to cast Dan Aykroyd as Amsterdam Vallon and John Belushi as Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting. The project fell apart after Belushi died. A cast reshuffle had Mel Gibson as Amsterdam Vallon and Willem Dafoe as The Butcher.
Marks the first teaming between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, which began a long collaboration, spanning more than ten years and many movies.
The scenes where Bill the Butcher taps his glass eye and where he yells, "Whoopsie daisy!" during the knife-throwing act were both ad-libbed.
Daniel Day-Lewis said in an interview that he listened to the music of Eminem to prepare for his role.
At the Chinese theater, Bill the Butcher calls for his boys to play some "American music" and extols it as "patriotic." They play "Garry Owen," a Gaelic drinking tune which became the official song of the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, chock-full of Irishmen. They were defeated, along with their commander, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, at Little Big Horn.
Martin Scorsese recreated 19th-century New York on the lot of Cinecitta studios in Rome. When George Lucas visited the massive set, he reportedly turned to Scorsese and said, "Sets like that can be done with computers now."
Martin Scorsese originally wanted Liam Neeson to play Monk McGinn. Neeson asked to play Priest Vallon instead.
Bill Cutting, the film's xenophobic antagonist, has a particular dislike for Irish immigrants. Daniel Day-Lewis is a naturalized citizen of Ireland.
To make sure his facts were accurate, Martin Scorsese contacted Tyler Anbinder, a professor of history at George Washington University and author of the book "Five Points".
Bill says his father was killed by the British on July 25, 1814. He most likely died in the Battle of Lundy's Lane, which was fought on that date in the Niagara Falls area. It was the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812.
Bill says to Boss Tweed, "I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth." The line is from the Bible (Revelations 3:15-16).
The boxing scene includes a cutaway to a man drawing a caricature of "Boss" Tweed. It's a reference to political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who was primarily responsible for Tweed's downfall.
The initial battle between Cutting's gang and Priest Vallon's gang appears to have been based on an event that took place June 21, 1835, on Pearl Street between Chatham and Centre Streets, in the heart of Five Points. The New York Sun wrote of "a most disgraceful riot" whose origin "was a dispute between two native citizens and several foreigners." According to the paper's account, "the riotous assemblage amounted to several thousand (people), many of those concerned armed with stones, brickbats and bludgeons."
Many of the characters portrayed in the movie are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. The view of the skyline shown at the end is visible from Williamsburg, not from Green-Wood.
The film is based partly on Herbert Asbury's book of the same name. The book's depiction of the draft riot, which remains the biggest in US history, is more in line with historical fact, and portrays the gangs as pro-slavery, racists, and lynchers.
Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally cast as Jenny. She backed out because of scheduling complications with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997). Martin Scorsese chose Sarah Polley for the part, but later cast Cameron Diaz after studios insisted he pick a more "bankable star".
During the final fight scene, Amsterdam wears a cestus, a Roman combat glove used in gladiator battles, on each hand. Cesti are essentially leather straps wrapped around the hands, but the Romans improved on the Greek design and added metal spikes, making them a more deadly weapon. Vallon's cesti are clearly visible when he prays before the fight.
One day, after the day's filming was finished, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese talked Daniel Day-Lewis into going out to eat with them. He refused to break character, and the waitress was afraid to go near him.
Martin Scorsese first became interested in working with Leonardo DiCaprio on Robert De Niro's recommendation. De Niro had worked with the young actor on This Boy's Life (1993) and had been thoroughly impressed with his talent.
In one scene, Boss Tweed describes to a few men the city's need for a grand new courthouse before being interrupted. It's a reference to the infamous New York County Courthouse, now known as the Tweed Courthouse. Tweed and Tammany Hall stole millions from the city that was earmarked for the construction of the building, making it the most expensive civic building of the 19th century.
Some of the extras were US Air Force personnel from the 31st Fighter Wing, stationed at nearby Aviano Air Base.
Martin Scorsese claims that he returned his salary for this film in order to help bring it within budget.
Leonardo DiCaprio got a dressing down in front of the entire assembled crew one morning when he turned up late after a night of heavy partying.
Martin Scorsese got interested in the project in the early 1970s after he read the book while house-sitting on Long Island one New Year's Eve.
The main character's name is Amsterdam. New York was New Amsterdam before the British took over.
Robert De Niro and Willem Dafoe were considered for the part of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting.
When Amsterdam takes his medal back from Jenny, the blood on his neck is digitally added.
The original budget was $83 million.
Daniel Day-Lewis stayed in character as Bill the Butcher throughout filming. He had several scuffles in Roman parking lots.
The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jim Broadbent and Martin Scorsese - who has a cameo role; and two Oscar nominees: Liam Neeson and John C. Reilly.
Martin Scorsese was influenced by American Mutoscope and Biograph Co.'s groundbreaking gangster film short The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), directed by D.W. Griffith. Biograph, the oldest movie company in America, is still in business.
Christina Applegate, Kate Beckinsale, Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Heather Graham, Bryce Dallas Howard, Alyssa Milano, Natalie Portman Christina Ricci (I)', Winona Ryder and Mena Suvari were considered or auditioned for the role of Jenny Everdeane.
Martin Scorsese said in an interview that he offered first the part of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting to Tom Hanks. He loved the script, but had to turn down the part due to his work in Road to Perdition (2002).
Daniel Day-Lewis employed two circus performers to travel to his home in Wicklow, Ireland, to teach him how to throw thin, sharp daggers. He also went to work in a butcher's shop for several weeks to learn how to meticulously incise and gut carcasses.
Production designer Dante Ferretti recreated over a mile of mid-nineteenth century buildings, consisting of a five block area of Lower Manhattan, including the Five Points slum, part of the East River waterfront with two full-sized sailing ships, a thirty-building stretch of lower Broadway and replicas of a mansion, Tammany Hall, a church, a saloon, a Chinese theater, and a casino.
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Martin Scorsese was a big fan of the film O Lucky Man! (1973), and considered casting Malcolm McDowell as Amsterdam. Had Scorsese been able to make this film in 1978, he planned to cast Robert De Niro as "Amsterdam."
The movie was originally planned for release around Christmas 2001. In June 2001, trailers and posters in theaters said "Christmas 2001" and "December." The film was pulled off the release schedule at the last moment, and released unchanged for Christmas 2002.
Daniel Day-Lewis took up an apprenticeship at a butcher shop in preparation for the role of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting, so called because of his superb butchering skills.
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The film was conceived in 1978 and intended to be produced in 1980 or 1981. It was shelved after the box-office failure of Heaven's Gate (1980) made studios wary of expensive, ambitious historical dramas.
At the time, this was Martin Scorsese's the most expensive film, with a budget of $100 million. Hugo (2011) has since surpassed it.
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Before the battle at the beginning of the film, several gangs introduce themselves. The Dead Rabbits, the Bowery Boys, and the Forty Thieves were real life New York gangs in the Five Points in the 1860s and 1870's. Their appearance, weapons of choice, and behavior are accurate. Many members became politicians later on.
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Elmer Bernstein's original unused score was released as a limited edition CD in 2008, along with Bernstein's unused scores for The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) and The Scarlet Letter (1995).
Tobey Maguire was considered for the role of Johnny Sirocco.
Seven cast members have also appeared in films for Steven Spielberg, more than have ever appeared together in another Scorsese picture. Leonardo DiCaprio appeared in Catch Me If You Can (2002), Cameron Diaz appeared briefly in Minority Report (2002), Daniel Day-Lewis appeared in Lincoln (2012), Brendan Gleeson appeared in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Jim Broadbent appeared in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Henry Thomas appeared in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Liam Neeson appeared in Schindler's List (1993).
During the making of The Age of Innocence (1993), Martin Scorsese handed his art director Dante Ferretti five books of notes on production design.
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Some of the remaining scaffolding on the back lot at Cinecittà Studios was reused by Mel Gibson for The Passion of the Christ (2004). The Roman praetorium is one of them.
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Jonathan Rhys Meyers was offered a part before production. He turned it down because he said he was too busy with other projects.
Because the release was moved to December 2002, Leonardo DiCaprio had two competing films opening within a week of each other. Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002) was his second movie that Christmas season.
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Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese wrote their first screenplay draft in 1977.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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When Paul Schrader met Martin Scorsese for the first time in 1972, the latter told him that he wanted 2 books made into films, "Gangs of New York" and "The Last Temptation of Christ".
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Martin Scorsese) first encountered Herbert Asbury's 1928 book about the history of Five Points in 1970. His first call was to his friend Jay Cocks who would eventually collaborate on the screenplay over 30 years later. Scorsese told Cocks to "think of it like a western in outer space".
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Elmer Bernstein was originally assigned to provide a musical score. Scorsese ultimately rejected Bernstein's score and decided to take a more anachronistic approach to the music.
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Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus was handed a lavish book of Rembrandt prints when he signed on to the film, and was told by Martin Scorsese that that was how he wanted the film to look like.
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Bill "The Butcher" Cutting states that his father died in 1814. In reality, William "Bill the Butcher" Poole, whom Cutting is based on, was born in 1821 and therefore his father could not have died during The War of 1812.
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Director Cameo 

Martin Scorsese: the wealthy man Jenny "turtledoves" at the head of the table.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Bill's last words, "I die a true American", were the last words of his true-life counterpart, Bill Poole.
At one point, Monk speaks a line of Gaelic to Amsterdam, then translates it. Before working as an actor, Brendan Gleeson taught Gaelic and other subjects as a secondary school teacher.
Priest's murder was originally much more violent. During the opening battle, just before Bill stabs Priest Vallon, an axe severs his left arm at the elbow, then Bill hacks him limb from limb. The shot of the arm being severed is still in the film moments before Bill yells for Priest to turn around.
The POV shot where Amsterdam re-emerges into the Five Points after recuperating from his wound (specifically, the four or five men loafing on either side of the alley) is a visual reference to a Jacob Riis photo, "Bandit's Roost," used as cover art on some editions of Herbert Asbury's "Gangs of New York."

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