If you have read our recent movie blog post, you will know that we are big fans of Scorsese’s movies. In that article, we featured the movie: Goodfellas, and we are back with another Top 10 Movie Facts masterpiece. This time it’s the 1995 classic Casino, starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone.
1. The legendary Saul Bass designed the Opening Titles.
The most innovative and influential graphic designer in cinema history, Saul Bass, was born in 1920. For half a century, he was responsible for some of the most iconic film posters of all time and popularised pre-film title sequence as we know it today.
With more than 50 opening credit sequences to his name, almost every movie in the '50s or '60s with distinctive opening titles could be linked back to him. Among them: Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest, West Side Story, Spartacus, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
While he was never a man keen on sharing credit for his work, it’s now largely accepted that his second wife Elaine was the driving force on the Bass’s later collaborations. These included titles for Scorsese's GoodFellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, and Casino, which turned out to be the final film of his career. He died five months after the film opened, at the age of 75.
2. De Niro’s Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein is based on a Real-life Figure.
The villainous protagonist of the 1995 crime is based on a guy called Frank Rosenthal. For example, the movie opens with Robert De Niro getting into a car that explodes once the key’s in the ignition. Frank Rosenthal survived a car explosion in real life in 1982 outside a Tony Roma’s steakhouse restaurant.
Also known as ‘Lefty,’ Frank was a professional sports gambler, a Las Vegas casino executive, and organized crime associate. Initially, Frank was not interested in having his life made into a movie.
But that was until he found out that Scorsese would direct, and De Niro would star in it. It turns out that Frank was a huge fan of both De Niro and Scorsese.
3. We Still don’t Know who Tried to Bomb Rosenthal.
While narrating his explosion ordeal to author Nicholas Pileggi (who also wrote GoodFellas), Frank said he saw flames reflected on the interior windshield. Rosenthal then asked himself, “Why is my car on fire?” as he struggled to get out of the burning car.
Outside the car, with his clothes on fire, he rolled on the ground to snuff out the flames. Two men assisted him in moving away as the car’s gas tank ignited, causing a huge explosion.
As his 4000 pound Cadillac Eldorado shot a few feet into the hair, it dawned on Rosenthal that this was not an accident. Someone has just tried to kill him!
To date, authorities still do not know who planted the bomb that blew up Rosenthal’s car on October 4, 1982. Investigators speculated his life was saved because the 1981 model of that car had a steel stabilizing plate beneath the driver’s seat, which deflected the blast.
4. The Studio Chose Fictitious Names for the Main Characters.
In his book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, Nicholas Pillegi used the actual names, but the names were changed in the movie. As much as Mafia movies such as The Godfather Trilogy were becoming major hits, studios were always nervous about making movies that concern the mafia.
In this case, Universal Studios’ lawyers were the ones who suggested calling Frank Rosenthal by the alias Sam Rothstein and using the nickname ‘Ace’ instead of ‘Lefty’.
You’ll also notice in the movie, they never mention Chicago as being the headquarters of the Las Vegas Mob. Rather, they used “back home.” Additionally, saying the movie was “adapted from a true story” rather than “based on a true story” gave the studio much more creative freedom.
Despite the name changes, Scorsese confirmed that most of the movie is based on facts.
5. The Movie Got as Authentic as Could Be.
To make Casino as true to life as possible, Scorsese decided to film in a real-life casino. In fact, the movie was shot in the famed Riviera Hotel and Casino. The only problem was that a casino that size never closes.
Scorsese made an arrangement with Las Vegas' Riviera to film there for six weeks, four nights a week from midnight to 10 a.m. when the casino was less busy. The crew had to work outside of peak hours as well as y take up only a tiny section of the casino.
To make the more even more realistic, they used real dealers and pit bosses whenever they could instead of hiring actors. Throughout the movie’s filming, the staff and guest people were busy going about their day on the other side of the casino floor.
The casino wanting to make the most of the publicity and lure in more punters, put up a massive banner outside saying, “ Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci filming a new movie ‘Casino’ Inside!”
6. Turns Out Frank Rosenhall May not have Liked the Movie that Much.
Frank Rosenthal, who died in 2008, said he only ever saw the movie once. This is probably the screening of a rough cut that he attended with Pileggi. The author claimed that Rosenthal's reaction was positive, but this claim is now up for debate.
Near the end of his life, when an interviewer mentioned that, "You only saw Casino once—and you don't like the movie," Rosenthal replied that "It lacked the detail of what I did. There are scenes where the Rosenthal character repeated the same thing twice. I would only tell you to do something one time—that's all I needed.
And there was that scene that still angers me when I think of it—I never juggled on The Frank Rosenthal Show. I resent that scene. It makes me look foolish. And I only did that TV show [at] the behest of the chairman of the board of the Stardust so that the public would realize I was a decent guy and not a mobster as portrayed by the media covering us at the time.”
Did Rosenthal change his mind over time? Did Pileggi misinterpret his initial reaction? We'll never know.
7. Joe Pesci Broke the Same Rib in Two Different Movies
Pesci was injured while filming Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull when, in character, co-star Robert De Niro flung him through a glass door and stamped on him with a little too much gusto, breaking his rib. Scorsese kept the scene in the final cut because of Pesci’s realistic, pained reaction.
Seems De Niro wasn’t done with him.
15 years later, Pesci ended up breaking the exact same rib 15 years later when he and Pesci were shooting a scene for 1995’s Casino.
8. Million Dollar Costume Wardrobe
The $1 million costume budget for Casino was huge, considering the film was released in 1995. Part of the $1 million dollar costume budget for the movie was spent in designing seventy suits for de Niro and forty-five outfits for Sharon Stone.
Not to mention those worn by Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak and James Woods —all of which had to be custom made.
One of the outfits Sharon wore was a white and gold beaded gown that weighed 45 pounds!. In fact, Sharon actually developed back pain because of the gown after reactivating an old injury.
At the end of the shoot, both actors got to keep their costumes. The costume department used a good portion of the cash to dress more than 7,000 extras for the movie, ranging from casino bodyguards to hotel clerks. The look of “Casino” was crucial to Scorsese, a director renowned for his dazzling visual sense.
9. An 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. 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.
One of the reasons his Mafia bosses turned against him is because he slept with Lefty Rosenthal’s wife. Sleeping with a married man's wife was unacceptable even for the Mafia.
10. Use of Expletive Word on a New level.
The language in the Casino movie is quite colorful. If you read our Goodfellas post, you know that movie ranks really high on the list of the most f-bomb laden films ever released. Well, Casino ranks even higher with F word is used a total of 422 times.
For a 2h 58m movie, that’s basically every 25 seconds!
Very similar to the Movie Goodfellas, there’s a lot of improvisation between the actors. Often during shooting, Martin Scorsese would tell De Niro and Pesci where to start and end. The rest was up to them. With this in mind, the number of profanities used is less surprising.
Which is your favorite fact about Casino? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.