12 THE LIST 2/
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It’s been MARTIN SCORSESE’s dream to make the original mobster movie, Gangs of New York, for over three decades. Here’s how it all began.
Words: Miles Fielder
continuing love and fascination I have for the city.’ So says Martin Scorsese. the man who defined the American organised crime movie. lirst in the l‘)7()s with Mam
‘ I guess you could say the project hecarne part of the
Streets. then again at the end of the Slls with (Inud/i’l/(M‘ and a
third time in the 90s with (avian. The ‘project’ is Scorsese‘s latest foray into the world of crime. (iungs of.\'('u‘ )in‘k. an epic account of the city‘s very lirst gangland wars. circa the lells.
‘liver since I was a child growing up in Lower hilanhattan. l was drawn to stories of old New York] he says. speaking in his trademark nervy quick—fire manner. ‘liacli day. as l explored the neighbourhood streets. I slowly uncovered clues to an extraordinary but relatively unknown period in the city‘s and our country‘s history. The lb’blls seemed to overflow with unbelievable stories of the working classes: of waves of immigrants who crowded the streets and alleyways: of corrupt politicians; and of the legends of the underworld who fought to control it all. They are the stories of the testing of America and what the young country stood for. They are the stories of our roots.‘
For the roots of Scorsese’s new film. you‘ve got to go all the way back to the year l‘)7(). Then the director had to his name only a handftrl of short films and just one feature. ll'lro's t/Iul Knocking u! my Door." Scorsese. who had yet to meet Robert De Niro and make movie history. was house—sitting fora friend. ()n a shelf he fotrnd a hook. back then something of a ctrlt item among native New Yorkers. entitled (Mugs ovau‘ lin'k.
The hook. written in l‘)2tS’ by Herbert Asbur'y. details the legends and lore of old New York's notorious criminal underworld. whose activities. argues Asbury. paved the way for the modern American mobster. l‘crocious. though relatively small gangs with colourful costumes and even more colourful names the l’lug l'glies. the Daybreak Boys. the Shirt Tails waged war with bat and axe upon one another. Not just in an effort to secure areas of the lledgling city. but as a matter of survival in a landscape that‘s never again been so violent.
‘I took the book off the shelf.‘ says Scorsese. ‘and read it almost all in one day. It contained all the folklore of old New