Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Alice Vincent writes for the Telegraph about the upcoming Gangs of New York TV series…
“Gangs of New York was released in 2002 and starred Leonardo Di Caprio and Daniel Day-Lewis, who was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his performance as Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting, a gangster. The film was praised for its accurate depiction of gang rivalries in mid-19th century Manhattan and was also put out by Miramax. Scorsese said that there were characters and stories from the era which the film ‘could not fully explore’ and that a television series would allow ‘the time and creative freedom to bring this colourful world to life.'”“
Read the full article here.
As we wait for the TV series Hannibal starring Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen and a Bates Motel series that explores the “early days” of Norman Bates, pre-Psycho, this type of programme isn’t too much of a surprise. The question is how, if possible, the series could connect to Boardwalk Empire.
As viewers are aware, Boardwalk Empire is partially-based upon the real-life exploits of Enoch L. Johnson – altered by writers to become Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) in the series. Furthermore, recurring characters appear throughout the show including Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein – all actual gangsters in East Coast organised crime.
By the same token, Gangs of New York was loosely based upon a non-fiction book by crime journalist Herbert Asbury. The film was so far detached from the source material that, when nominated for an Oscar, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Despite this, the film does feature key characters and situations that are rooted in historical fact – crucially the Five Points in New York, the various gangs (The “Dead Rabbits” etc.) and even Bill the Butcher. Akin to Boardwalk Empire, the film weaved a fictional narrative around factual events.
Theoretically, the primarily 1860s context of Gangs of New York could be built upon using research to fill in the gaps and bring the story through to the 1920s – connecting the two TV series together. In a time whereby combining properties and characters is all-the-rage (see Wreck-It Ralph, Avengers Assemble et al), it is not completely unbelievable. Though I doubt Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis would be content in dipping their toes into TV territory, I assume Miramax is hoping Scorsese’s connections might work some sort of miracle.
Outside of Gangs of New York, it is exciting to imagine other Scorsese films that could be adapted into TV series: The Departed could continue the fascinating Boston context, whereby throughout the series we see undercover officers and villainous police officers change sides time and time again; Goodfellas continues Henry Hill’s story (albeit, with less exciting exploits); Casino continues the Las Vegas criminal empire; Shutter Island could present different B-movie stories each week that play with psychological thriller conventions.
In fact, all of these films – except Shutter Island – all have roots in reality. James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was the basis for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed, whilst both Goodfellas and Casino are based on true stories … though both with a certain degree of artistic-licence used when making the jump from fact to film. So could Scorsese be using his career to show us the full history of organised crime in the USA? Charting the Five Points gangs in the 1860s through to Atlantic City in the 1920s … and I assume Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy covers the post-World War II criminals until the late 70s, whereby Henry Hill sets us up for Goodfellas… I have to admit, I love it.