Martin Scorsese was planning to make Gangs of New York since he read the book by the same name in the early 70's. On the heals of Taxi Driver, Scorsese planned to cast Robert De Niro as Amsterdam Vallon and would require huge financial backing and resources. But production planning slowed down when films of similar budgets and scope resulted in financial disasters. Heaven's Gate in particular, was one of those films that put fear in studios to proceed with any historical drama of epic proportions.
Fast forward to the late 90's. Big-budget historical dramas were now thriving at the box office and thanks to films like Braveheart and Titanic, Scorsese's Gangs was back in motion as soon as he found his cast. De Niro was now too old to play 'Amsterdam' so Scorsese offered the role to Leonardo DiCaprio and 'Bill the Butcher' to Daniel Day-Lewis.
The financial cost of making Gangs due to elaborate sets, massive visual effects set pieces, finely-detailed costumes and a lengthy shoot time on location in Cinecittà, Rome, proved to be very challenging for Scorsese. After many months of principle photography, the film went into post-production, set for a Christmas 2001 release. This was pushed, however, when Scorsese felt the film needed re-shoots and edits. The release was postponed a year and Scorsese announced that the final product was the cut he envisioned. That year, Gangs was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Gangs is a revisionist historical drama set during the tension of the civil war, that showcases the city of New York as being divided by rival gangs in the mid-19th century. An ongoing territorial war between the 'natives' and Irish Catholic immigrants existed and brutal, bloody fights often occurred on the street to protect their pride, turf and borders.
In the Gangs of New York: Making Gangs of New York bonus material, the actors, director, historians and producers all give great insight to the background of American immigration, during a tumultuous time in America, when it was at war and still being built.
Scorsese: There were so many [Irish immigrants], so fast and for such a long period of time that it created that 'who has the right to be here' situation.
Daniel Day-Lewis: People were more inclined to stick with their own communities because they felt strength in that.
Leonardo DiCaprio: At the end of the day, it boils down to territory...these are the origins of gangs in America.
Get a copy of the DVD to learn more history on the 'making of' Scorsese's Gangs.
Watch the clip below where Johnny shows Amsterdam around town, pointing out everything from the occupying gangs to a vivacious redhead named Jenny.
As recently announced, Scorsese and Miramax are developing Gangs of New York the TV series. Continue to check back often for more news on the development as well as learning about more history on the film.
via Senses of Cinema