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

“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-vice 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.

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  • Tommy Vercetti

    I’ve got one : one night the whole cast had dinner at the Wynn’s house and Steve Wynn tried so bad to score with Sharon Stone without success..

    • Rooster

      Well…you know…you can’t blame a brother for tryin’…

  • RustyHammer

    21. Extras can be seen eating casserole from Giordano’s in the background of three scenes.

    • Photoncounter

      22. One of those extras is actually a panda and it’s a bamboo casserole.

  • RustyHammer

    22. I’ve seen both Casino and Showgirls, and didn’t enjoy either enough to want to see them ever again. I assumed I’d love Casino, but Scorsese fails to entertain me, again and again. I’m kinda interested in seeing both of these movies again, as it has been more than a decade since I watched either one.

    • wanker751

      No wonder you don’t like deep dish PIZZA, you have just terrible taste….

      • RustyHammer

        Yeah, that’s right, I don’t bow down at the same alter you bow down at, so I have terrible tastes. Thanks for sharing your idiocy.

        • wanker751

          You’re welcome

          • RustyHammer

            At least you’re honest. Props

  • RustyHammer

    No. 3 is stunningly gruesome. How a person could stomach doing that to another human I’ll never understand.

  • Scott Johnson

    The steel plate that saves Rothstein’s life in the movie was a real thing. GM installed them to correct a handling problem. Spilotro in real life had a jewelry store inside of Circus Circus, of all places. As for errors, a half mile past Caesars is not the middle of desert, not even in 1980. And I never understood what the YES/NO card meant in Rothstein’s office. That he was there? Whether or not to bother him?

    • Steven Brown

      He had a gift shop at Circus Circus using the alias Tony Stuart (Stuart was his wife’s maiden name). The jewelry store, The Gold Rush, was located at 228 W. Sahara, which happens to be where the Lucky Dragon now sits.

  • Saulaco Jauregui

    regarding #20 – In the film they reference “back home” as Kansas City

  • EnuffBull

    I can watch “Goodfellas” nonstop every time it is on and entertained every damn time too, but it’s source book “Wiseguys” gets tedious upon mulitple readings.

    In contrast, I’ve read “Casino” multiple times and love the history of Vegas, the mob, the numbers systems, sports betting, etc… but rewatching the movie gets tedious.

    (both books by Nicholas Pileggi)

    SPOILER ALERT — the “Casino” prop dummy (without the animatronics) used for Joe Pesci’s character as he is being buried alive in the cornfield is (was?) on display at the Mob Museum. They also used the location of the Mob Museum to film courtroom scenes in the movie, it’s location being the actual courtroom where they did try some of those mob members!

  • EnuffBull

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

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

    Once again, you always bring the coffee-spewing entertainment to the photo captions!

    LOVE ‘EM!!!

  • Steven Brown

    I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Casino over the years. I know I’ve watched a lot more times than I have Goodfellas (which is a great film as well).

    Don Rickles in several interviews joked about how on the set of Casino he told Scorsese that the next movie he was doing was being directed by Bob Saget and he said that Scorsese nearly had a heart attack.

  • William Wingo

    When “Casino” came out I took my wife, stepson, mother AND Mother-in-law to see it, thinking it would be a good movie about Las Vegas. Then Joe Peschi started beating people with baseball bats and I wanted to hide under the seat–but that wouldn’t have saved me from the soundtrack with all the f-words. 14-year-old stepson seemed to enjoy it, though..

  • Beth Carroll

    Did someone really just try to compare Showgirls to Casino? Lols

    • RustyHammer

      no

  • Bouldersteve

    Casino and Taxi Driver are my favorite movies. Scorsese and De niro are the dynamic duo. Interesting facts..Traci Lords was considered..would have liked to see that audition. The scene where De Niro’s car is blown up is in front of the California casino.

    • Frink2014

      The car scene was shot in the current parking lot of Main Street Station. The film makers dressed it up to look like a Tony Roma’s.

  • FYMYAWF

    Good post, Scott, and a great movie. I was in Vegas trip before last sitting in the 1923 Bourbon Bar at MB on a slow night and they had this running on the screen behind the stage. Such a meta and cool experience to be watching the movie in Vegas.

    Still think my fave Vegas movie is the Ocean’s 11 remake but this is damn close.

  • Funkhouser_1

    Great movie. I always thought this was the one Scorsese should have won Best Director Oscar. Ali Pirouzkar if my memory serves correctly at one time was a fashion and suit guy at Caesars. I can remember seeing Ali working as a sales and consultant at one of CP old high end shops in Appian Way. I believe he eventually took his trade downtown to Fremont. I remember meeting and getting a picture with the guy late 90’s when he was still a pretty big local celebrity.

  • Oscar

    In August of 1986 I made my first trip out to Las Vegas. Was the mob still in business at that time in LV? I recall the Mirage was almost completed.

    • Funkhouser_1

      Anthony Spilotro (Nicky) and Frank Rosenthal (Ace Rothstein) characters were out of Vegas by then. The Mob was still around, but no longer directly controlling casinos. Chicago outfit was pushed out of casinos, but were still active in Loan sharking, theft,prostitution, and illegal sports betting.. The FBI went after organized crime heavy in the 80’s including Las Vegas. Most of the old mob guys not convicted were put in the black book and banned from setting foot in casinos by the end of the 80’s. Sen Harry Reid made his bones on the NGC going after corruption in Vegas gaming joints before he was a senator. Pickup a copy of “When the Mob Ran Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem and Murder” great read.

      • EnuffBull

        Thanks for the book recommendation! I love the book “Casino” more than the movie, and can’t get enough of reading about mob influence in America’s history. Makes you wonder what’s going on right now that will be written about and exposed in a few years?

      • The Vegas Voice

        “when the Mob Ran Vegas” is based on second hand stories. The book “The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob” is from the mobsters themselves.. Much better read

    • Jonesy55

      Steve Wynn purchased the Castaways property in 1987 and began construction of the Mirage in 1988. Opened in 1989. 😊😎🌴

  • JeffinOKC

    I recall it was Misnomer who pointed out (on another site) that the “Cheater’s justice!” guy who got his hand smashed with a hammer is the same person who sold Bernie Mac the Ford vans in Ocean’s Eleven. Which explains the running gag of Bernie shaking his hand with a firm grip for a long period, and babbling about soft hands and hand lotion.

  • Greg Polkosnik

    I was in town when it was filmed. I was at Saks (if I remember correctly), where there was an in-store Chanel boutique. When I walked up to the counter, the clerk told me that I just walked by Sharon Stone as she walked out. I know, right?