The character of K.K. Ichikawa (Nobu Matsuhisa), the Japanese highroller, is based on the life of high roller Akio Kashiwagi. During the 1970s and 1980s, 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 J. Trump, millions of dollars. He was murdered in his house in Tokyo by the yakuza (Japanese mafia) in 1992.
Joe Pesci's wife (at the time of filming), Claudia Haro, played Trudy, the co-hostess and band leader of "Ace's High". Haro and Pesci divorced and she remarried. She was convicted in 2000 of two counts of attempted murder for hiring a hitman to try and kill her other ex husband a stuntman.
The casino scenes were shot at the Riviera between 1:00 a.m. and 4 a.m., 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 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.
Most of James Woods' 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.
The "f" word is said four hundred thirty-five 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 had a reported four hundred thirty-five uses. The recorded was later broken by The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which had close to six hundred uses.
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.
Martin Scorsese directed this movie in such a way that just about every scene Pasquale Cajano (Remo) is in, a bright spotlight shines down upon him, but no other cast members in the scene. This is clearly evident during the final scene between the mob bosses.
While the movie begins by stating it is based upon a true story, it never names the real-life casino involved. The "Tangiers" casino is fictional. The story is based upon the history of the Stardust casino, a fact well documented in the Las 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 end of the final credits.
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.
Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal hated the scene of Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) juggling on his television show. Rosenthal maintained that he never juggled on his show, and felt that the scene made him look foolish.
Joe Pesci bore some natural resemblance to Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, upon whom his character was based. In make-up, he looked even more like Spilotro, so much so that, according to Pileggi, when Pesci entered the casino where the movie was being shot, some pit bosses who'd had personal dealings with Spilotro "almost fainted".
The two Deputies that come to Sam's house when Ginger rams his car were real Clark County Deputies. They were working security on the movie set. One of them (Randy Sutton), was featured on C.O.P.S. (1988).
Sharon Stone spent many long workdays in agony while filming scenes for this film. She had back trouble due to an old injury, and the gold and white beaded gown she wears during a casino scene weighed forty-five pounds.
In 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.
In the Blu-ray commentary, Sharon Stone relates the story of how she came to be in the film. She says her first two auditions for Martin Scorsese ended up being cancelled for various mundane reasons-Scorsese was held up by another meeting, that sort of thing-and Stone's paranoia convinced her that he was blowing her off. When the director's people contacted her to try it a third time, she turned them down and went out to dinner with a friend instead. Scorsese tracked her down and showed up at the restaurant where she was dining to make a personal appeal.
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.
Don Rickles (Billy Sherbert, Tangiers Casino Manager and right-hand to Sam "Ace" Rothstein) also appeared on the real-life The Frank Rosenthal Show (1977) opposite Frank Sinatra during his time as a Las Vegas performer. The show was depicted in the film as "Aces High".
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 F.B.I. watching him. 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")
This movie 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.
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 worldwide box-office success.
According to Alan King, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, upon whom Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) was based, wanted Richard Widmark to play the lead in the film. However, Widmark was eighty-years-old by that time, and, therefore, not a practical choice.
None of the scenes of the bag man going into the counting room to collect the money to bring back to the bosses were actually filmed inside the counting room of the Riviera casino. All of the counting room scenes were filmed on a set that was built, because the movie company was not allowed to film inside the counting room in the real Riviera casino.
Because he did not know how the powers-that-be in the West operated, Martin Scorsese asked L.Q. Jones to completely re-write the scene where Commissioner Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones) meets Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) to ask him to rehire Don Ward (John Bloom). Jones in an interview said he was pleasantly surprised by this request, as he had worked with many directors who never wanted anyone to mess with the script.
The scene between Sam (Robert De Niro) and Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones) in Ace's office was re-written by L.Q. Jones upon Martin Scorsese's request, because Scorsese felt that he had not written the western cowboy character very well.
Senator (Dick Smothers) is partly based on Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The scene in which Sam "Ace" Rothstein is denied a license by the Nevada Gaming Commission, was 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 a real courtroom in the Clark County Courthouse, which was later closed in 2005.
When Nicholas Pileggi decided to write a book about Las Vegas, he researched the story of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and became very interested. At first, however, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal was not interested in Pileggi's idea to write a book about him. It was only after Rosenthal read that a movie would be adapted from the book by Martin Scorsese, and that it would star Robert De Niro, that he became interested, because he loved Goodfellas (1990) and De Niro's performance in the film.
As this was to be Director of Photography Robert Richardson's first collaboration with Martin Scorsese. Scorsese suggested that they watch a series of movies from his private collection. He was hoping to convey to his new Director of Photography the general "look" he was eager to capture for this 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 this movie.
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' 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.
When Ginger asks Ace for twenty-five thousand dollars while they are having breakfast at home, she shakes a carton of empty Anderson milk. The Anderson dairy is a real Las Vegas milk producer, and even the logo on the carton was appropriate for the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Though this was the first joint venture Martin Scorsese had with Robert Richardson, it wasn't the first time the men had met. Scorsese interviewed Richardson when he was after the Director of Photography position on Cape Fear (1991), a credit that ultimately went to Freddie Francis.
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.
Given that L.Q. Jones was a veteran of many western movies, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro were said to be in awe of him when he first appeared on the set. Jones said in an interview, that the first scene he filmed was the courtroom scene where Rothstein is denied his gaming license.
Released a month before Heat (1995), also starring Robert De Niro. Surprisingly, both movies are almost three hours each and take place in different states, making it interesting that De Niro would have time to make both movies released so closely.
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.
After Ginger is arrested by the F.B.I., a sequence of the rest of the arrests follows. In Santoro's arrest, a television is featuring a Gregory Peck and Walter Gotell fight during a party scene from The Boys from Brazil (1978). Peck had appeared in Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear (1991) four years earlier.
Martin Scorsese, who admired comedians, cast many individuals who had a background in stand up comedy in non-comic roles in "Casino," including Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, Dick Smothers, Steve Allen, and Anthony Russell.
Frank Cullotta: The gray-haired hitman in sunglasses near the end of the movie. He was the Chief Lieutenant of Tony Spilotro in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Cullotta entered the Witness Protection Program before the "cornfield incident" took place and was not present, unlike Marino.
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 remarked later in life, "Billy McCarthy was the toughest guy I ever met." (Jimmy Miraglia was subsequently killed and put in the trunk of his own car, along with Billy's corpse).
The scenes of the casino being imploded at the end of the film were that of The Dunes in October 1993 and January 1994. The spectacular event took place in front of more than two hundred thousand spectators, and was the first of its kind to create such a spectacle.
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.
Sam "Ace" Rothstein's vehicle during the bombing scene 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.