The classic 1995 movie Casino, paints a fantastic picture of life in Las Vegas when the mob was pulling the strings.
From the vicious backroom beatings to dicing with authorities and larger than life players, the movie is one of Martin Scorsese’s greats.
It’s also, largely, based on a true story as told in the novel Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, based on the life of Frank Rosenthal.
All the main characters in the film are based on real people. And you might be surprised by how many specific events are actually true, especially given how surreal they are!
Who Is The Movie Casino Based On?
The main character, Sam “Ace” Rothstein is based on the real-life Frank Rosenthal and (because it’s a Scorsese movie) he’s played by Robert De Niro.
When asked in an interview about how accurate the portrayal was he said it was about a seven, which I guess we’ll have to take his word for.
The broad-strokes of the story are all matters of record but one of the most intriguing is the fact that Rosenthal genuinely did not possess a gambling license.
This was probably down to the fact he had quite a lot of ties to the mob and acquiring one would have been incredibly difficult.
While this is surprising, the weirdest part is that the preceding events, where the gambling commissioner comes after him for firing his brother in law, also has a grain of truth to it.
In Rosenthal’s own words “while there was a degree of truth to what happened, the way it was put out in the movie was not very accurate”. Yet even this isn’t the most unbelievable part of the story that turned out to be true.
Rosenthal also survived an attempted car-bombing just like Rothstein in the movie. This was because the car he owned at the time (a Cadillac Eldorado) had a thick metal plate to correct a balancing issue.
Ginger McKenna, played by the incredible Sharon Stone, is based on Rosenthal’s ex-wife Geri McGee and according to Rosenthal the scene where they meet is also (kind of) based on reality.
The scene where Ginger throws fistfuls of chips into the air to the delight of a crowd is something Rosenthal actually saw happen.
But, he did clarify, that he’d already met her a few times before and was already thinking of dating her by that time.
Unfortunately, the negative traits Ginger has in the movie are also present in her real-life counter-part and Rosenthal wouldn’t comment either way in the interview on her presentation in the movie.
Finally we come to Nicky Santoro, based on the real-life Anthony Spilotro and played by Joe Pesci.
Anthony Spilotro was a notorious criminal and a close friend of Rosenthal’s. Up until a point, that is.
Their falling out is a main plot point in the movie and also occurred in real life (it’s a popular theory that Spilotro attempted the car-bombing we mentioned earlier).
And, much like Santoro, Spilotro met a terrible end. He was found in a shallow grave, alongside his brother, beaten severely and buried in a cornfield.
There is little evidence they were alive when it happened so this was more an invention of the movie to add to the brutality.
The murders have since been solved, with at least one of the real-life killers serving a life sentence, though they were caught long after the movie had been released.
What Casino Is The Movie Based On?
The movie Casino (1995), directed by Martin Scorsese, was based on real-life events at the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
However, in the movie, the casino was called the Tangiers due to legal reasons. The Stardust Resort and Casino was a real casino that operated in Las Vegas from 1958 to 2006.
Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, ran the Stardust, Fremont, and the Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the 1970s until the early 1980s.
What Casino Was The Movie Filmed In?
The movie was primarily filmed in two real Las Vegas casinos: The Riviera Hotel and Casino and the Landmark Hotel and Casino.
The Riviera, which was operational on the Las Vegas Strip from 1955 to 2015, was used extensively during the filming of Casino. Its gaming floor served as the stand-in for the fictional Tangiers casino.
The Landmark Hotel and Casino, another classic Las Vegas establishment, was also used for a number of scenes. However, it was demolished not long after the movie was shot.
It’s worth noting that while the Riviera and the Landmark were the main casinos used, other scenes were shot in various locations throughout Las Vegas and the surrounding area.
How True Is The Movie Casino?
Casino is based on true events, though some artistic license was taken for dramatic purposes.
The movie is based on the non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese.
The characters in the film are based on real people:
Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) is based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a professional sports handicapper and bookie who ran the Stardust, Fremont, and the Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the 1970s until the early 1980s.
Nicky Santoro (played by Joe Pesci) is based on Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit who was sent to Las Vegas to protect their interests there.
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Ginger McKenna (played by Sharon Stone) is based on Geri McGee, who was married to Rosenthal and had a tumultuous relationship with him.
While the film is based on true events, some details were changed or dramatised for the screenplay.
For example, the Tangiers Casino depicted in the film is fictional; it was based on the Stardust but was not a direct representation of it.
The timeline and details of some events were also adjusted for the purposes of the narrative. However, many of the key events and character dynamics depicted in the film are based on actual events and relationships.