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‘Butcher’ travels from boarding school to bloodshed epic

Berlin, Feb. 16 (Reuters): British actor Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for a best actor Oscar, recounted how he was drawn to the lights of the theatre during his unhappy time at boarding school.

“I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I was about 12. I have been kept going by that memory of certainty. I was at boarding school. It was when the world seemed quite bleak,” Day-Lewis told a news conference in Berlin. “Theatre illuminated the world for me. It was the idea of putting light into the world,” said the actor whose mesmerising and brutal Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York has given him a second chance of Oscar success.

Day-Lewis, awarded an Oscar in 1989 for playing a disabled man in My Left Foot, is appearing in a movie for the first time in five years after reportedly spending time out to learn the craft of shoemaking in Florence.

“I got sidetracked by life,” he said, adding he had no future projects lined up.

The son of poet and novelist Cecil Day-Lewis, the actor has made his name as much for his onscreen characters as for his determined, almost obsessive method. He reportedly confined himself to his wheelchair between takes in My Left Foot and skinned animals for The Last of the Mohicans.

Any butchery for Gangs of New York'

“I find it hard to describe. You put all objectivity aside... It’s an act of imagination. I think of it as going back to the play pen. It’s trying to regain the sense of naivety you have as a child,” Day-Lewis said ahead of the gala close of the Berlin Film Festival featuring Gangs of New York.

Set from 1846 to 1863, the film tells the story of the bloody gangs that made up downtown New York, a melting pot of immigrants, and their pitched battles to establish supremacy as the American Civil War ships men off to battle.

The film was no small undertaking. Director Scorsese worked for 20 years with screenwriter Jay Cocks on Herbert Ashbury’s 1928 non-fiction work of the same name. The result is three hours of bloodshed, revenge, corruption and love. “It really is the last epic of its time,” said producer Graham King whose team had to recreate three miles of New York City in a studio in Rome.

Director Scorsese and his producers are keen to stress the historical accuracy of their piece. “Scorsese is a pure historian. I would find him sitting on the floor with 10 to 12 books... I think they (the audience) will perceive the movie as proper history,” said King, who has already moved on to Scorsese’s next project.

The Aviator starring Leonardo di Caprio, will be an account of playboy, aviation pioneer and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

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