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The 2002 Oscar campaign starts here. In fact, as far as the best actor race is concerned, Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein is convinced it’s already over.

“Put your money on now,” Weinstein said Wednesday about the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York.” “I’m telling the other guys to leave town. They should just desert that ballot.”

Weinstein continued with his new confessional policy about the supposed conflicts between himself and director Martin Scorsese. He acknowledged that his previous refusal to talk openly about the film had fuelled rumors of major problems.

He insisted that the budget for the film, originally set at $84 million, had reached no higher than $97 million –though that excludes interest costs and deferred fees. Of that, $65 million was covered by Initial Entertainment Group’s commitment against foreign sales. He also said that Miramax had saved $10 million by buying forward Italian currency, which offset the interest costs.

As for the creative conflicts, he cited the example of Cameron Diaz’s role in the film. “We told her she was working for six weeks, but everyone thought she was incredible, so we said let’s rewrite the script.” In the end, she was on the film for six months, despite being paid a fee of just $1 million. “With all her costs, I’m sure Cameron went into deficit. But she has some back-end, and if the film does $100 million, she’ll be in good shape.”

Meanwhile Columbia and the “Charlie’s Angels” sequel was waiting for her. “The day she had to leave, Marty said he didn’t want her to go. I said I can’t keep her — if you ask her she will stay, but that would be the wrong thing to do. He said he was going to ask her anyway.” In the end, though, Columbia put its foot down and Scorsese backed off.

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