When virtually everyone hears the name Scorsese, the first thing they link it with is the movies in the catalog of this celebrated American director that depict the lifestyle of Italian-American gangsters. While Goodfellas is likely his most-celebrated film from this mini-genre, Casino, a tale of deception, power, and greed taking place in the world’s gambling capital, is not too far behind.
Released in 1995, based on the Nicholas Pileggi book – Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, Casino, despite popular belief, was a significantly more massive financial success than Goodfellas while drawing similar critical praise. Due to the film’s immense scope and running time of over three hours, it holds a wealth of trivia that anyone that has ever watched it will likely get surprised by and stunned to learn.
Of course, the most vital info regarding this movie concerns its central location. Much of the plot of Casino revolves around the day-to-day operations of the fictional Vegas venue – The Tangiers. That is an establishment based on – The Stardust, one of the four spots that Frank Rosenthal, the person that inspired De Niro’s Sam Ace Rothstein character, was responsible for in real-life. The now-closed Riviera Hotel & Casino in Winchester was where all of Casino’s interior scenes got shot, including its roulette and restaurant ones. However, the Landmark, also closed, is where all the film’s exteriors got filmed. So, the venue that audiences see in the movie is a combo of these two debunked locales.
For more intriguing facts about Scorsese’s Casino, read on below.
Saul Bass Designed Casino’s Opening Titles
Undoubtedly, Saul Bass is one of America’s most prominent graphic designers ever. During his four-decade career in Hollywood, he worked with many of the industry’s biggest names like Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese. When it comes to the latter, Bass designed title sequences for four of the director’s movies, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, the Age of Innocence, and Casino. His work on Casino is unique because he used computerized effects for the first time for the opening sequence instead of his standard optical techniques. The end product was a James Bondesque opening rich in red and flashing lights.
The Book – Casino, Almost Came Out After the Movie
Following the critical acclaim that Goodfellas received, six Academy Award nominations, Scorsese faced mounting pressure to direct another crime-based film, starring Robert De Niro, whom he had worked with, on another similar project decades before, Mean Streets. Thus, he turned to crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi for help, the man who wrote the book Wiseguy, the basis for Goodfellas. Nevertheless, while Pileggi had already finished Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas and given it to Scorsese to read, it had not yet been available for the masses. It hit store shelves in October 1995, six weeks before the film debuted in theaters.
Pesci Bore a Resemblance to Tony Spilotro
Anthony Spilotro, nicknamed Tony the Ant, the violent psychopath played by Joe Pesci in the film as Nicky Santoro, looked almost identical to the actor after make-up and a wig got applied to Pesci. Spilotro earned the moniker the Ant due to his short stature. He stood an inch over five feet tall, three inches shorter than Pesci. That said, the pit bosses that had dealt with Spilotro that visited the set during filming noted that the similarities between the two were uncanny.
The Movie’s High-Roller K.K. Ichikawa Was a Real Person
One of Casino’s funniest scenes is when Rothstein simulates a mechanical failure to force the Japanese high-roller, Ichikawa, to stay another night in Vegas so that he can lose back the money he had won at the Tangiers’ blackjack tables. He eventually does. The Ichikawa incident is somewhat factual, as the escapades of Tokyo-based real estate investor Akio Kashiwagi served as inspiration for the Ichikawa character. Kashiwagi had a reputation for frequenting Atlantic City and Vegas casinos and playing at VIP baccarat tables for hours, betting enormous sums of money. In 1992, Kashiwagi got murdered in his native country stabbed more than 150 times with a samurai sword. Though the case never got solved, rumors persist that it happened because of Kashiwagi’s debts to the Yakuza, Japan’s top organized crime organization.
The Real Ace Hated the Movie
As mentioned, the film tells the story of Frank Lawrence Rosenthal, a native of Chicago that moved to Las Vegas in 1968, where he ran sports gambling operations and secretly operated four casinos controlled by the organized crime group, the Chicago Outfit. Rosenthal saw an early cut of the film and remarked that it lacked specific details concerning his job, and the scene where Rothstein juggles angered him because it never happened in real life.
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