20 Weird, Wonderful, Useless Facts About the Movie “Casino”

“Casino” is one of the all-time great movies about Las Vegas. The film, released in 1995, was inspired by real people and, in large part, actual events.

“Casino” is a funny, violent, eye-opening glimpse into the colorful history and culture of Las Vegas casinos, and the film has helped shape how many perceive Sin City, for better or worse.

Here, then, are some weird, little-known and arguably useless facts about the movie “Casino.”

1. “Casino” was based upon a real casino boss, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. He was played by Robert De Niro. Joe Pesci’s character was based on Lefty’s real-life gangster associate, Tony Spilotro. Read more about Frank Rosenthal.

“Casino” is consistently listed as one of the best Las Vegas movies of all time. The worst? “Showgirls.”

2. The director of “Casino,” Martin Scorsese, said he didn’t expect the head-in-a-vise scene to make it into the movie. He included it because he thought it would distract the MPAA and would make other scenes seem less violent by comparison. It stayed in.

3. The vice scene came from the book “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” and was drawn from Tony Spilotro’s interrogation of a gangster named Billy McCarthy. McCarthy committed the unauthorized murder of two brothers, the Scalvos, and Spilotro tried to get McCarthy to give up the identity of the man who assisted with the murders. Spilotro beat McCarthy, then stabbed him in the testicles with an icepick. Eventually, he put his head into a vice and crushed it until his head was just five inches wide. McCarthy didn’t give up the name of his partner, Jimmy Miraglia, until Spilotro tightened the vice enough to make one of McCarthy’s eyes pop out. McCarthy survived long enough for Spilotro to kill him by pouring lighter fluid on him and setting him ablaze.

Casino movie
In this scene, a customer attempts to take photos of the exterior of Palace Station. Long story.

4. The casino in the movie, The Tangiers, didn’t exist. It was based upon the history of the Stardust. The song “Stardust” is played three times during the course of the movie.

5. The film was shot inside the Riviera. Yes, the one that is now a parking lot.

6. The exterior scenes outside the Tangiers were filmed in front of the Landmark Hotel across from what was then the Las Vegas Hilton, now Westgate Las Vegas.

7. Scorsese arranged to shoot at The Riv for six weeks, four nights a week, from midnight to 10:00 a.m.

Riviera neon sign
Riviera’s last hurrah was being featured in the awful action film, “Jason Bourne.”

8. All of the counting room scenes were filmed on a set because the production wasn’t allowed to film inside the counting room in the real Riviera casino.

9. For authenticity, and to keep from having to train actors how to do it, real dealers and pit bosses were used whenever possible.

10. Joe Pesci broke a rib during the filming of the scene where he’s whacked in a cornfield. It was the same rib broken by Robert De Niro during the filming of “Raging Bull.”

11. The real setting of the murders of Anthony Spilotro and his brother Michael was a basement in Illinois. They went there believing Michael was going to be inducted into the mob. This is the same way Joe Pesci’s character is killed in “Goodfellas.”

12. Lots of actresses were considered for the role of Ginger, including Nicole Kidman, Melanie Griffith, Rene Russo, Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Traci Lords and Madonna. Sharon Stone won out.

Casino movie
In casino slang, a woman who uses her sexuality to take advantage of unsuspecting high rollers is called “this blog’s sister.”

13. Martin Scorsese has said his favorite shot in the film is the overhead sequence of Sharon Stone at the craps table when she’s throwing chips up in the air.

14. The High Roller in that scene was played by Ali Pirouzkar (see below). Pirouzkar was cast when talent scouts spotted him strolling through Fashion Show Mall. On his first night of shooting, someone snuck onto the set and offered him $10,000 to leave (so the man could take his part). He declined.

Ali Pirouzkar
If you bump into Ali, please let him know we’re trying to reach him. No, really. His number was disconnected.

15. The costume budget for “Casino” was $1 million. Robert De Niro had 70 different costumes, all made from scratch.

16. More than 7,000 extras were used in the film. There were 120 speaking parts.

17. To avoid the continuity problems, Robert De Niro always held his cigarettes the same distance from the lit end so their lengths were consistent.

18. The “f” word is used 435 times in “Casino,” an average of 2.4 times per minute.

Casino movie
What could possibly go wrong?

19. Most of the conversations between Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in “Casino” were improvised.

20. The studio’s lawyers were very nervous about “Casino,” so they changed the character names and never mentioned Chicago as the mob’s headquarters in the film. (They used “back home.”) The titles said “adapted from a true story” rather than “based on a true story.” Scorsese claimed “pretty much everything” in the movie is true.

There you go. Have more fun facts about “Casino”? Post them in the comments.