The character of K.K. Ichikawa (Nobu Matsuhisa), the Japanese highroller, is based on the life of high roller Akio Kashiwagi. During the 70's and 80's, Kashiwagi was a big scene at Las Vegas casinos. By the end of the 1980s, however, Kashiwagi had used up his casino credit, owing many casino executives, among them Donald Trump, millions of dollars. He was murdered in his home in Tokyo by the yakuza (Japanese mafia) in 1992.
To avoid the continuity problems that accompany a chain-smoking movie character, Robert De Niro always held his cigarettes the same distance from the lit end so that their lengths never appear to change.
While the movie begins by stating it is based upon a true story, it never names the actual casino involved. The Tangiers casino is fictional. The story is actually based upon the history of the Stardust casino, a fact well documented in the Vegas history books. Martin Scorsese discreetly documents this fact via the soundtrack, in which the song "Stardust" is heard three different times. An instrumental version plays during Ace and Ginger's wedding and a vocal version is heard during the scene where Remo asks Marino if Nicky and Ginger are having sex and also during the very end of the final credits.
Martin Scorsese stated before the film's release that he created the "head in the vise" scene as a sacrifice, certain the MPAA would insist it be cut. He hoped this would draw fire away from other violent scenes that would seem less so by comparison. When the MPAA made no objection to the vise scene, he left it in, albeit slightly edited.
The casino scenes were shot at the Riviera between 1:00 am and 4:am so as not to get in the way of the real gamblers. Although the casino didn't want the shoot to interrupt its business, that didn't prevent it from trying to lure more punters inside by putting up a large banner that said, "Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci Filming the New Movie 'Casino' Inside!"
Martin Scorsese directed Casino in such a way that just about every scene Pasquale Cajano (Remo) is in, a bright spotlight shines down upon his character but no other actors in the scene. This is clearly evident during the final scene between the mob bosses.
Most of James Woods's lines were improvised. Including the phone call with Ginger after her wedding. Originally, Woods was not supposed to speak during that scene. Woods came up with idea that Lester would be with a prostitute and doing cocaine while on the phone with Ginger.
In the scene where Joe Pesci comes over to Ace Rothstien's house to talk to Richard Rheil (the banker). There is a photo on the counter, where Robert De Niro is standing. That is an actual photo of Lefty Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro, which are the real guys DeNiro and Pesci are portraying.
The word "fuck" is said 435 times, including in the narration - 2.4 times per minute on average. The film held the record for the most uses of the word until the release of Summer of Sam (1999), which also has a reported 435 uses. The recorded was later broken by "The Wolf of Wall Street" which has close to 600 uses.
The character based on Anthony Spilotro (Nicky Santoro) is placed in the Black Book. However, in real life, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal (the inspiration for Sam "Ace" Rothstein) was the one placed in the Black Book and was run out of Las Vegas.
At the scene where Ginger is using the phone booth, Sharon Stone was at such an anxiety state, portraying her character, that Martin Scorsese was sitting on the floor outside the shot, holding her hand.
Sharon Stone spent many long workdays in agony while filming scenes for this film. She has back trouble due to an old injury, and the gold & white beaded gown she wears during a casino scene weighed 45 pounds.
As they were shooting scenes in Las Vegas set in the 1970s, the husband of an elderly woman extra was given a period-correct leisure suit to wear by the wardrobe department. However, instead of providing the woman with period clothes, they told her, much to her chagrin, that her out-of-date attire was just fine.
Casino was filmed entirely in the Las Vegas Valley. The casino and office scenes were filmed in the famed Riviera Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip and the driving scene in the beginning of the movie was filmed on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, which is no longer open to automobile traffic.
In the scene where the character John Nance is killed outside of his home in Costa Rica, professional hit man Frank Culotta, who in fact played the hit man in the scene, told Martin Scorsese how that particular hit had been done. Because he was the man who did the hit in real life. Martin Scorsese had originally planned for the character to be shot and fall into his pool, at which point there would have been a camera angle that would have shown his blood flowing into the water. But Frank Culotta said that that was not what had actually happened in real life.
Dick Smothers' character, Senator, is partly based on Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The scene in which Sam Rothstein is denied a license by the Nevada Gaming Commission is based on a December 1978 hearing when Harry Reid was the commission's chairman; some of Reid's statements are used in Smothers' dialogue. The scene was shot in an actual courtroom in the Clark County Courthouse, which was later closed in 2005.
Although the film received a lot of criticism for its excessive violence and few considering it to be a rehash of Martin Scorsese's earlier movie Goodfellas (1990), it received a lot of positive reviews from many critics (in particular Sharon Stone's performance received critical acclaim which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Drama and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress) and was a box office success.
Comedian Don Rickles who plays Billy Sherbert, Tangiers casino manager and right-hand to Sam 'Ace' Rothstein, also appeared on the real-life Frank Rosenthal Show during his time as a Las Vegas performer. The show was depicted in the film as 'Aces High'.
This shoot marked cinematographer Robert Richardson's first experience working in the Super 35 format. He later claimed to have been "terribly disappointed" by the quality of the release prints, and did not return to the format until Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).
One of Las Vegas's most flamboyant casino operators, Bob Stupak, was originally cast to have a non-speaking role as a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission. However, when he demanded that he have some lines, he was quickly replaced.
As this was to be DP Robert Richardson's first collaboration with Martin Scorsese, the director suggested that they both watch a series of movies from Scorsese's private collection. The director was hoping to convey to his new DP the general "look" he was eager to capture for his movie. Both men viewed, and discussed, T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948) and Slightly Scarlet (1956) - all shot by John Alton. Scorsese felt that Alton's photographic style in these films epitomized the film noir aura he wanted Richardson to recreate for Casino (1995).
Sasha Semenoff, the orchestra leader seen on the "Aces High" television show, is a well known Las Vegas local. He has performed in Vegas for nearly fifty years. His quartet played the Dunes hotel in the mid 1960s; in 2003, he entertained diners at The Venetian with his violin.
In this film, a character drops dead of a heart attack after finding out that he's going to be arrested. In Goodfellas (1990), a woman talks about someone dropping dead of a heart attack after finding out that a relative had been arrested.
Joe Pesci's character (Nicky) is based upon the real life person Anthony Spilotro. Several scenes and minor details about his character were taken directly from the book "Casino" by Nicholas Pileggi. One example is when Nicky is nervously discussing the police and FBI watching him. Joe Pesci is seen biting the cuticles of his thumb when talking about the situation. Thus is in direct reference to a testimony from Frank Cullota, "...He used to chew on the cuticle of his right thumb. If you looked at it sometimes it was all raw and chewed away." (Pg. 163 from "Casino")
Blackjack dealer Nick Mazolla who was confronted by Joe Pesci's character, was same blackjack dealer for Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in Rainman. As well as the War dealer to Chevy Chase in Vegas Vacation.
1 hour and 42 minutes into the movie there is an obvious continuity flaw. A packet of Marlboro can be seen on the car seat beside the Remo character. In the next shot it is replaced by a cigarette lighter - in the following shot the pack of Marlboro re-appears.
the gray-haired hitman in sunglasses near the end of the movie. He was the chief lieutenant of Tony Spilotro in the late '70s, early '80s. Cullotta entered the Witness Protection Program before the "cornfield incident" took place and was not present, unlike Marino.
The real-life Santoro brothers, Anthony and Michael Spilotro, weren't killed in the Las Vegas desert but in an Illinois basement, where they'd gone believing Michael was going to be inducted into the Mafia. This is the same way Joe Pesci's character is killed in Goodfellas.
The "head in a vise" scene is taken from an anecdote in the book "Casino" unrelated to the main story, describing mob enforcer Tony Spilotro's interrogation of a low-level gangster named Billy McCarthy, who had committed the unauthorized murder on the Scalvo Brothers, a pair of high-ranking mobsters within Spilotro's crime organization. Trying to get McCarthy to give up the identity of the man who helped him kill the Scalvos, Spilotro first beat McCarthy, then stabbed him in the testicles with an icepick, before finally shoving his head in a vise and crunching it to five inches wide; McCarthy didn't give up the name of his partner, Jimmy Miraglia, until Spilotro tightened the vise in such a way that one of Billy's eyes popped out. Amazingly, McCarthy survived the head-crushing long enough for Spilotro to kill him by dousing him in lighter fluid and setting him ablaze. Spilotro would remark later in life, "Billy McCarthy was the toughest guy I ever met." (Jimmy Miraglia was subsequently shot dead and put in the trunk of his own car along with Billy's corpse).
The real-life Santoro brothers, Anthony and Michael Spilotro, weren't killed in the Las Vegas desert but in an Illinois basement, where they'd gone believing Michael was going to be inducted into the Mafia.
Joe Pesci's character Nicky Santoro was based on real-life Chicago gangster Tony Spilotro, called the Ant. As portrayed in the movie with Nicky and his brother, Spilotro and his brother really were beaten and buried in an Indiana cornfield together in 1986.
After Nicky is barred from Vegas casinos, Ace and Nicky meet sixty miles outside Vegas at a bar called the Idle Spurs. The telephone number seen on the front sign of the Idle Spurs was the correct telephone number for the Idle Spurs Tavern in Las Vegas (at 1113 South Rainbow Boulevard, near the intersection of Charleston Boulevard). The telephone number remained in service years after the movie was made. The number is now disconnected.
Ace" Rothstein's vehicle during the bombing scenes is a 1981 Cadillac featuring the ill-fated "V 8-6-4" engine. Offered for only one year, the engine was meant to save fuel by shutting off unneeded cylinders. This can be seen in the dashboard shot of the "MPG Sentinel" and its "Active Cyls" button at the end of the movie.