Released in 1995, the movie Casino remains a classic, a popular choice for movie buffs interested in the casino world and mob mentality. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie starred huge names like Robert De Niro, Sharon, Joe Pesci. Inspired by real-life events, this movie takes viewers on an interesting journey into Las Vegas and how the mob may or may not have been connected to the gaming industry. Find out just how much of the story is true below as well as more interesting facts about Casino, a film that deserves to be immortalized as an online Vegas slot machine.
The Main Characters are Based on Real People
The story of Casino is loosely based on the life of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a manager of the Fremont, Stardust, and Hacienda casinos in Vegas back in the 70s and 80s. Sam “Ace” Rothstein played by De Niro was based on Frank. Ginger McKenna, played by Sharon Stone, was based on Geri McGee. The character Nicky Santoro played by Joe Pesci was based on Anthony Spilotro.
The Bombing Scene has Validity
The bombing scene found in Casino has some validity to it. In the movie, Sam survives a car bombing and in real life, so did Frank. For Frank to survive in real life, a metal stabilization plate that was located under the driver’s seat of the car actually saved his life. So, this casino movie scene is true to some degree.
The Vice Scene
There are two interesting facts about the head-in-a-vice scene. First, Scorsese did not expect the scent to make the cut. He included it in the movie so that it would distract the MPAA and allow the other scenes to seem less violent. Secondly, the vice scene was taken from a book titled Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. The scene was taken from an interrogation by Tony Spilotro of Billy McCarthy, a known gangster. Spilotro was trying to get McCarthy to give up details about a man who helped with the murder of the Scalvo brothers. Spilotro actually used the vice and pushed it into McCarthy’s head until it was only five inches wide. Eventually one of McCarthy’s eyes popped out and he was eventually killed.
Filmed at the Riviera
Casino was filmed inside the Riviera. The casino was opened in 1955 but closed in 2015. The exterior shots were completed in front of the Landmark Hotel which is across from The Westgate Las Vegas today. The interior scenes were filmed from 1 am to 4 am so that the production would not disrupt actual gamblers. The Riviera was happy to have the movie filmed on-location. They even posted a banner stating that De Niro and Pesci were filming a movie inside to invite people in.
Real Dealers and Pit Bosses Used
Because the movie took place in a casino, it was important to create an authentic environment. To do this, the film used real dealers and pit bosses when possible. This helped to avoid training actors to deal with cards.
Stone Reigns Supreme
Many actresses were considered for the role of the female lead Ginger, which was played by Sharon Stone. Such females as Madonna, Melanie Griffith, Uma Thurman, Nicole, and Cameron Diaz were considered. Sharon was found to be the right person to play Ginger. For her role, she won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Actress in a Motion Picture as well as was nominated for an Academy Award.
The costume budget for Casino was insane, considering the film was released in 1995. A cool $1 million was spent on wardrobe needs with Robert De Niro having a total of 70 different costumes. All of his outfits were custom-made.
The language in the Casino movie is quite colorful. The F word is used a total of 435 times. It is basically said every 3 seconds or less!
In Casino, there is a love triangle between Sam, Ginger, and Nicky. In real-life, it has been alleged that McGee, the ex-wife of Frank and Spilotro did have an affair.
Real Life Attorney
In the movie, Sam was represented by an attorney played by Oscar Goodman. In real life, Goodman was an attorney. He actually helped to defend several mobsters with Las Vegas ties. He went on to be elected as mayor in 1999.
Leave it Up to the Actors
In many movies with seasoned actors, they are allowed to improvise. Who better to improvise than Pesci and De Niro? It is reported that a lot of improv work was seen between these two actors. The director simply told them when to start and stop and the rest is history. This is not uncommon when actors work well together and can easily play off of each other.
Akio Kashiwagi-Based Character
The character K.K. Ichikawa played by Nobu Matsuhisa was based on Akio Kashiwagi, a real person who was a frequent visitor to casinos in the 70s and 80s. During his lifetime, Akio ran up huge credit lines and owed several people millions, including Donald Trump. By the early 90s, Akio’s luck ran out as he was found murdered in his home by the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
Fake Money Room
In the film, there is a counting room where all the money is reviewed. The film crew was not allowed in the real counting room of the Riviera Casino of course, so they made their own. The fake room was used to display the money generated by the casino.
Joe Pesci’s character Nicky is put in the Black Book in the film, blacklisted from the casino. In real life, it was the inspiration for De Niro’s character, Frank who was placed in the real Las Vegas Black Book. He was not welcome in the gambling town.
Not Divulging Secrets
Producers of Casino tried to find gamblers who would tell them how to cheat. This was reportedly the hardest part about filming because no one wanted to provide any details. This is not surprising as it could lead to issues for the players when visiting casinos to use their tricks in gameplay.
Real Criminals and FBI Agents
When hiring individuals to work on the film’s production, Scorsese decided to open up the employment pool. He actually hired real parolees and even FBI agents from the era to construct the plot. Such individuals could provide real insight from that time period to help make the piece more authentic.
Another well-known actor, James Woods, can be seen in Casino. He heard that Scorsese was interested in working with him, so he sent a message to the director saying ‘any time, any place, any part, any fee’. He was hired and ended up improvising a lot with his character. He even provided the idea that his character be with a prostitute when he was talking to Ginger on the telephone.
Just like De Niro, Sharon Stone also has a customized wardrobe but she was given far fewer changes, at around 40 outfits. The white and gold beaded gown worn in the film was a hard one to wear as it weighed 45 pounds. Sharon actually had back pain because of the gown, after reactivating an old injury.
In real life, Frank’s ex-wife Geri, unfortunately, passed away from a drug overdose. This was portrayed correctly in Casino as Stone’s character Ginger fell to a similar fate at the end of the movie in a motel room.
Phone Booth Anxiety
While filming the scene with the phone booth, Sharon Stone had issues with anxiety. To help ease feelings, Martin Scorsese sat down outside the booth and held her hand during filming.
Actual Implosion Shots
When you see the casino implode on film, the images were actually taken from The Dunes which took place from October 1993 to January of 1994.
Iconic Death Scene
In Casino, one of the most iconic death scenes in movie history takes place when Santoro (played by Pesci) and his brother Dominick are attacked by Frank Marino after the car bombing of Sam. In true mob fashion, Frank ambushes Santoro suspecting he was behind the bombing. Both Santoro and his brother are buried alive.
In real life, this happened to Anthony Spilotro, the inspiration for Santoro’s character. Both Spilotro and his brother were allegedly buried in a cornfield by the mob.
Casino is a truly great film, starring amazing actors portraying a realistic glimpse into the gambling world and the mob. If you have never watched the film, you can watch it today on streaming services such as Netflix. Give it a go and remember some of these unique facts as the most infamous scenes show up on the big screen! If you are a fan of casino gaming, it might be best to take a break from land-based gaming, just in case you fall into a mob-like situation involving such characters as Nicky Santoro or Sam Rothstein!