Gangs of New York (2002): Behind-The-Scenes & Facts

In 1862, Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points area of New York City seeking revenge against Bill the Butcher, his father’s killer.

Gangs of New York

Scorsese wanted to make this movie for a while…a long while

The director first read “The Gangs of New York” in 1970, and later that decade he would make the movies “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver.” This led to him acquiring the rights to the book in 1979. Then, decades passed. It was not until 1999 that he finally found a production company that would help him mount his vision.

It was shot on a massive set in Rome, Italy

Gangs of New York
Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of Gangs of New York (2002), Martin Scorsese

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.

Gangs of New York

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 William Poole, who also was known as “The Butcher” and had much the same prestige as Daniel Day-Lewis’ character.

Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally broke Daniel Day-Lewis’ nose while filming a fight scene. Day-Lewis continued to film the scene despite the injury. *

Gangs of New York

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.

Martin Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis behind the scenes of Gangs of New York (2002)