12/10/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
It took more than 25 years for director Martin Scorsese to make "Gangs of New York," but the finished product is finally arriving in time for Christmas. And with it comes great hubbub over its violence and heavy promotion from its stars, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis, who is being loudly talked up for an Oscar nomination.
Day-Lewis, 45, who disappeared from Hollywood after 1997's "The Boxer," would only say that he filled in the years between movies doing "different things." But he says he probably won't let so much time go by again without working.
"I can't say I wouldn't, but I didn't set out to let five years pass," he said. "I'm not just being deliberately obtuse about it, but I wasn't aware of the time passing ... I set out to indulge my curiosity in other things, not just to get away from this work."
As for DiCaprio, "I wanted to be a part of a film that people were going to be watching for years to come," said the "Titanic" star, 28. "Basically 'Gangs of New York' was the project that I heard about, about a young Irish immigrant, that (Scorsese) had been developing for 25 years. I actually switched agencies to get a meeting with him about the project."
DiCaprio credits his former agent, Mike Ovitz, with setting him up with Scorsese. "He said, 'I have this young actor that I'm representing right now, he's been wanting to do it for eight years, do you want to do it with him?' He said yes, and it was one of the greatest moments I've had in my career."
And while critics will be chiming in with their opinions of the movie, which opens Dec. 20, columnist Liz Smith has already fired the first shot. She considers the drama to be "brutish and unrelenting" -- and for "sadists and masochists."