DiCaprio Greets 'Intense' London Fans

01/08/2003 AT 01:00 PM EST

Some 2,000 fans stood in the bitter cold of London's Leicester Square Tuesday night for a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio at the premiere of Martin Scorsese's brutal epic, "Gangs of New York."

Their star, 28, did not let them down, though the Associated Press reports he was only there to greet them for a few minutes.

After checking out the throng, DiCaprio told reporters inside the theater, "It was pretty intense out there. This has been the biggest crowd so far. We didn't get that in Paris or Berlin."

The movie, which received mixed reviews on this side of the Atlantic -- though nearly all praised Daniel Day-Lewis's stellar performance and dismissed DiCaprio's -- concerns Manhattan's underworld gangs at the time of the Civil War.

DiCaprio, who plays an Irish immigrant out to avenge his father's murder by Bill the Butcher (Day-Lewis), told the London reporters, "It's a throwback to the type of film that was done in the past, those big epics, the way they used to be done ... It's a real primal story about the test of democracy in our country."

Day-Lewis, 45, who took a five-year break before appearing in "Gangs," denied at the premiere that he had any plans to retire.

"It's not so much I'm retiring, " he said. "As much as I love the work, I also love to stay away from it. I've really no idea what I'm going to be doing next."

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