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Day-Lewis in ‘Gangs’ land

Thesp breaks hiatus after seeing Zaillian rewrite

NEW YORK — In what will mark his first film work in four years, Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis is negotiating for the co-lead role, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, in “Gangs of New York,” the Martin Scorsese-directed drama being financed to the tune of $80 million by Miramax Films and Touchstone Pictures.

“Gangs” centers around the attempt by a gangster (DiCaprio) who attempts to unite ethnic street gangs during a time of corruption in New York City in the 19th century. Day-Lewis is negotiating to play Bill the Butcher, the man who stands in the way of DiCaprio’s Amsterdam character. The script was written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, with Steve Zaillian recently turning in a rewrite.

Day-Lewis, who last starred in the 1997 film “The Boxer,” previously worked with Scorsese on “The Age of Innocence,” again from a script by Scorsese and Cocks. Day-Lewis won the best actor Oscar for “My Left Foot” at Miramax, where topper Harvey Weinstein is personally overseeing the “Gangs” project, with Alberto Grimaldi producing.

With a resume as celebrated as any of his age-comparable peers -— “Last of the Mohicans” and “In the Name of the Father” are other notable credits — Day-Lewis’ decision to take an extended hiatus from acting has been considered a disappointment to his fans and something of a mystery.

Scorsese has waged a months-long campaign to tempt Day-Lewis back into the fold with this project, which has been the director’s passion for at least a decade. Day-Lewis awaited the Zaillian rewrite, and then talks began in earnest. With Liam Neeson and Day-Lewis’ “In the Name of the Father” co-star Pete Postlethwaite also being courted by Scorsese, “Gangs” is shaping up in casting.

Film begins shooting in Rome in August, with Initial Entertainment Group handling the overseas rights while Miramax takes domestic. Day-Lewis is managed by longtime rep Gene Parseghian of Parseghian Planco.

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