By Stephen M. Silverman
January 02, 2003 12:00 PM

While critics were all over the map when it came to assessing Martin Scorsese’s brutal period epic “Gangs of New York,” its stars were well focused on carrying out their roles, reports The New York Times.

In interviews with Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio, the paper reports that Diaz, 30, learned that the secret to picking pockets is, simply, “the art of distraction.”

Once the victim is set up, the Golden Globe nominee explained, “It’s just positioning yourself with your partner — your unknowing partner — and sort of dipping them, and while you’re dipping them you’re dipping into their pocket and they don’t know it.

“It’s one of those things that with practice you can get quite good at because it’s kind of common sense, and it’s not something that’s very difficult in certain situations, like in a crowd.”

For his part, the movie’s leading man, DiCaprio, studied fighting with an historian, who told him that the style of punching depended upon the gang. His gang in the movie, the Dead Rabbits, utilized a style called catchacatch.

“It’s kind of like Greco-Roman wrestling mixed with street fighting,” said DiCaprio, 28.

No word from The Times on how Daniel Day-Lewis learned to wield an ax.