Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis
Plot: Having seen his father killed in a major gang fight in New York, young Amsterdam Vallon is spirited away for his own safety. Some years later, he returns to the scene of his father's death, the notorious Five Points district in New York. It's 1863 and lower Manhattan is run by gangs, the most powerful of which is the Natives, headed by Bill "The Butcher" Cutting. He believes that America should belong to native-born Americans and opposes the waves of immigrants, mostly Irish, entering the city. It's also the time of the Civil War and forced conscription leads to the worst riots in US history. Amid the violence and corruption, young Vallon tries to establish himself in the area and also seek revenge over his father's death.
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.
Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally broke Daniel Day-Lewis' nose while filming a fight scene. Day-Lewis continued to film the scene despite the injury.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Daniel Day-Lewis said in an interview that he listened to the music of Eminem to prepare for his role.
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.
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 claims that he returned his salary for this film in order to help bring it within budget.
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.
Martin Scorsese has a cameo as the wealthy man Jenny "turtledoves" at the head of the table.
Bill's last words, "I die a true American", were the last words of his true-life counterpart, Bill Poole.