OK, so Harvey Weinstein apparently had a bad scene at the Gangs of New York press conference according to the Hollywood Reporter. What else is new? The main thing is that Miramax finally showed 20 minutes of Martin Scorsese's long-awaited epic to an audience last night here in Cannes. And even the skeptics had to agree: It looks like a winner.
The movie, which will eventually clock in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, concerns the fight for turf in Lower Manhattan in the mid-1800s. Not giving too much away, I can tell you that Leonardo DiCaprio must avenge the death of his father (Liam Neeson) and defend the rights of Irish immigrants against the local crime boss played by Daniel Day-Lewis.
Though 20 minutes is not much to report on, some things were quite evident from the screening. Day-Lewis is utterly remarkable as the villainous Bill Cutting. Somehow during this short showing, Day-Lewis seemed to leap off the screen. I think the audience was startled by how he instantly connected with them.
No less than film producer Saul Zaentz — who has been fighting with Miramax for six years over the accounting from his Oscar winner The English Patient — sang the short presentation's praises. "I'm very happy for Marty," Zaentz told me as we tried to escape the main festival theatre following the show. "And Daniel was amazing. I was also surprised about how good Cameron Diaz was."
Diaz plays the woman caught between Day-Lewis and DiCaprio — a tough, sexy, and possibly unforgiving character. Although she is mostly known for comic roles, Diaz looks as though she may pull this off brilliantly.
As for Leo: He has been quite the old-fashioned movie star here, playing to the crowds — throngs I should say — of fans. He and Sharon Stone are even at this point in their courting of the paparazzi. Last night DiCaprio, Diaz and Diaz's boyfriend, Jared Leto, hit all the parties. They were still going strong at 3 a.m. with Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Chloe Sevigny, Sean Penn and director Jim Jarmusch on the stone deck of a cliffside villa with magnificent views.
DiCaprio, according to sources, is still concerned that he will be Titanic's Jack Dawson forever in audience's minds. But the little we saw of him in the Gangs clip suggested that he has matured and found his niche as an adult actor. He has the looks and makings of a mega star a la Mel Gibson and John Travolta. His future seems assured, no matter what the tabloids say.
I caught up with Leo at that villa party last night and found him much changed from the lanky, silly kid he was 10 years ago when I interviewed him for What's Eating Gilbert Grape. When sparklers were lit on a birthday cake and sizzled gold against the deep dark blue sky, DiCaprio joked: "How much would you give me to jump up on that table and say 'I'm King of the World?'"
There's a lot more going on here besides Gangs: New Line Cinema is very happy with the reaction to Nicholson in About Schmidt. And Columbia Pictures has a critical hit with Adam Sandler in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love. Everyone is raving about Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine. Old hands here say Cannes 2002 has restored the festival's glamour.