Casino (film)

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For the 1998 film Ho Kong Fung Wan (aka Casino) about Macau triad leader Broken Tooth Koi, see Wan Kuok-koi.
Casino poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Barbara De Fina
Screenplay by
Based on Casino 
by Nicholas Pileggi
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Syalis D.A.
  • Légende Entreprises
  • De Fina / Cappa
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 22, 1995 (1995-11-22)
Running time
178 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40–50 million[1]
Box office $116.1 million[2][3]

Casino is a 1995 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. It is based on the non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas[4] by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. The two previously collaborated on the hit film Goodfellas (1990).

The film marks the eighth collaboration between director Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, following Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990), and Cape Fear (1991).

In Casino, De Niro stars as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a Jewish American top gambling handicapper who is called by the Italian Mob to oversee the day-to-day operations at the fictional Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. His character is based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago Outfit from the 1970s until the early 1980s. Pesci plays Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro, a made man. Nicky is sent to Vegas to make sure that money from the Tangiers is skimmed off the top and the mobsters in Vegas are kept in line. Sharon Stone plays Ginger McKenna, Ace's scheming, self-absorbed wife, based on Geri McGee.

Casino was met with a mostly positive critical response and was a box office success, though not as successful as Goodfellas, a mafia film by Scorsese which also featured De Niro and Pesci. Stone's performance was unanimously praised, earning her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.


In 1973, sports handicapper and mafia associate Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is sent to Las Vegas to run the Teamsters Union-funded Tangiers Casino on behalf of the Chicago Outfit, who secretly control the Teamsters, while Philip Green (Kevin Pollak) serves as the mob's frontman. Taking advantage of gaming laws that allow him to work in a casino while his gaming licence is pending, Sam doubles the casino's profits, which are skimmed by the mafia before they are reported to income tax agencies. Impressed with his work, the Outfit's top boss, Remo Gaggi (Pasquale Cajano), sends Sam's childhood friend and caporegime Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro (Joe Pesci) and his associate Frank "Frankie" Marino (Frank Vincent) to protect Sam and the whole operation. Nicky's volatile temper soon gets him banned from every casino in Las Vegas, so he gathers his own crew and soon engages in shakedowns and burglaries, and is soon considered the mob boss of Las Vegas.

Sam meets and falls in love with a hustler, Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone). They conceive a daughter and marry, but their marriage is proven difficult by Ginger's strong independence and love for her former boyfriend, con artist-turned pimp Lester Diamond (James Woods), who is ordered beaten severely by Sam and Nicky after they catch him conning Ginger out of some money. Meanwhile, Sam makes an enemy in county commissioner Pat Webb (L. Q. Jones) for firing his brother-in-law Don Ward (John Bloom) for incompetence. When Sam refuses to reinstate him, Webb pulls Sam's licence from the backlog, forcing him to face a hearing for his gaming licence while secretly arranging for the board to deny Sam. Sam blames the incident on Nicky's recklessness and the two argue furiously in the desert after Sam attempts to tell Nicky to leave Las Vegas.

The casino counters begin stealing some money for themselves, prompting the bosses to put Artie Piscano (Vinny Vella) in charge of overseeing the transactions. He rants about it in his grocery store, unaware that the FBI are listening on an old bug they had planted there long before. The FBI subsequently begin an investigation. In an attempt to escape from Sam, Ginger takes their daughter, Amy, to Los Angeles, where they plan to flee to Europe with Lester. Ginger, however, has a change of heart and returns home, but her cocaine use puts a severe strain on her relationship with Sam, who very nearly kicks her out of their house. Ginger approaches Nicky for help in getting her valuables from their shared vault in the bank, and they start an affair in the process. Sam discovers this after finding Amy tied to her bed by Ginger, who is with Nicky at his restaurant. Sam disowns Ginger, and so does Nicky. Ginger makes a scene at Sam's house and manages to get the key to their deposit box with help from the police. Though she succeeds in taking her share of the money from the bank, she is arrested by the FBI for aiding and abetting Sam.

The FBI move in and the casino empire crumbles. Green decides to cooperate with the authorities and Piscano dies of a heart attack, though Nicky flees Las Vegas before he can be caught. The FBI approach Sam for help, but he turns them down. The bosses are arrested and put on trial, but decide to eliminate anyone involved in the scheme to stop them from testifying and prolonging their coming sentences, among them three casino executives, Teamsters Head Andy Stone (Alan King) and money courier John Nance. Ginger flees to Los Angeles and ultimately dies penniless of a drug overdose in a motel. Sam himself is almost killed in a car bomb, and suspects Nicky was behind it. Before Sam can take revenge, Nicky and his brother Dominick are ambushed by Frankie and their own crew and savagely beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield, the bosses having had enough of Nicky's behaviour and offered his crew clemency in exchange for the murder.

With the mob now out of power, the old casinos are demolished and purchased by big corporations, who build new and gaudier attractions, which Sam laments are not the same as when the mafia was in control. Sam subsequently retires to San Diego and continues to live as a sports handicapper for the mob, in his own words, ending up "right back where I started". He closes the film with the words, "and that's that".




The research for Casino began when screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi read a 1980 report from the Las Vegas Sun about a domestic argument between Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a casino figure, and his wife Geri McGee, a former topless dancer.[6] This gave him an idea to focus on a new book about the true story of mob infringement in Las Vegas during the 1970s, when filming of Goodfellas was coming to an end (the screenplay which he co-wrote with Scorsese).[7] The fictional Tangiers resort reflected the story of the Stardust Resort and Casino, which had been bought by Argent Corporation in 1974 using loans from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. Argent was owned by Allen Glick, but the casino was believed to be controlled by various organized crime families from the Midwest. Over the next six years, Argent Corporation siphoned off between $7 and $15 million using rigged scales. When exposed by the FBI, this skimming operation was the largest ever exposed.[8] A number of organized crime figures were convicted as a result of the skimming.[citation needed]

Pileggi contacted Scorsese about taking the lead of the project, which became known as Casino.[6] Scorsese expressed interest, calling this an "idea of success, no limits".[9] Pileggi was keen to release the book and then concentrate on a film adaptation, but Scorsese encouraged him to "reverse the order".[10]

Scorsese and Pileggi collaborated on the script for five months, towards the end of 1994.[7] Real-life characters were reshaped, such as Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Geri, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother. Some characters were combined, and parts of the story were set in Las Vegas instead of Chicago. A problem emerged when they were forced to refer to Chicago as "back home" and use the words "adapted from a true story" instead of "based on a true story".[9] They also decided to simplify the script, so that the character of Sam "Ace" Rothstein only worked at the Tangiers Casino, in order to show a glimpse of the trials involved in operating a Mafia-run casino hotel without overwhelming the audience.[9] According to Scorsese, the initial opening sequence was to feature the main character, Sam Rothstein, fighting with his estranged wife Ginger on the lawn of their house. The scene was too detailed, so they changed the sequence to show the explosion of Sam's car and his flying into the air before hovering over the flames in slow motion—like a soul about to go straight down to hell.[9]

Principal photography[edit]

Filming took place at night in the Riviera casino in Las Vegas, with the nearby defunct Landmark Hotel as the entrance, to replicate the fictional Tangiers. According to the producer Barbara De Fina, there was no point in building a set if the cost were the same to use a real-life one.[9] The opening scene, with Sam's car exploding, was shot three times; the third take was used for the film.[9] When first submitted to the MPAA, the film received an NC-17 rating due to its depictions of violence. Several edits were made in order to reduce the rating to R.[11][12]


The film made $116 million worldwide[2] on a $40–50 million budget.[1]

While the film was heavily criticized for its excessive violence, it garnered a mostly positive critical response. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 80% approval rating based on 61 reviews.[13] On Metacritic, the rating is 73 (generally favorable reviews) out of 100 based on 17 reviews.[14]

List of Accolades
Award / Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Director Martin Scorsese Nominated
Golden Globe Award[15] Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Sharon Stone Won
Academy Award Best Actress in a Leading Role Sharon Stone Nominated

American Film Institute lists


Casino: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Casino (1995) Soundtrack-Front.jpg
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released November 20, 1995
Genre Soundtrack
Label MCA
Producer Robbie Robertson
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[18]

Disc 1[edit]

  1. "Contempt – Theme De Camille" by Georges Delerue
  2. "Angelina/Zooma, Zooma Medley" by Louis Prima
  3. "Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters
  4. "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers
  5. "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
  6. "How High The Moon" by Les Paul & Mary Ford
  7. "Hurt" by Timi Yuro
  8. "Ain't Got No Home" by Clarence 'Frogman' Henry
  9. "Without You" by Nilsson
  10. "Love Is the Drug" by Roxy Music
  11. "I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee
  12. "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
  13. "The Thrill Is Gone" by B.B. King
  14. "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia
  15. "The 'In' Crowd" by Ramsey Lewis
  16. "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael

Disc 2[edit]

  1. "Walk on the Wild Side" by Jimmy Smith
  2. "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" by Otis Redding
  3. "I Ain't Superstitious" by Jeff Beck Group
  4. "The Glory of Love" by The Velvetones
  5. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by Devo
  6. "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" by Dinah Washington
  7. "Working in the Coal Mine" by Lee Dorsey
  8. "The House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals
  9. "Toad" by Cream
  10. "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" by Tony Bennett
  11. "Slippin' and Slidin'" by Little Richard
  12. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" by Dean Martin
  13. "Compared to What" (Live) by Les McCann & Eddie Harris
  14. "Basin Street Blues/When It's Sleepy Time Down South" by Louis Prima
  15. "St. Matthew Passion (Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder)" by Johann Sebastian Bach (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti)


  1. ^ a b Army Archerd (1995-11-13). "Scorsese puts faith in preview auds". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  2. ^ a b Scott Foundas Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm (2013-05-07). "Andrew Garfield to Star in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  3. ^ "Casino (1995)". Box Office Mojo. 1996-01-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  4. ^ Pileggi, Nicholas (1995). Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas (First ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80832-3. 
  5. ^ Nicholas Pileggi. Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. p. 261. 
  6. ^ a b Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 336. 
  7. ^ a b Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. p. 198. 
  8. ^ Levitan, Corey (2008-03-02). "Top 10 scandals: gritty city". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Thompson, David & Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. pp. 200–204. 
  10. ^ Baxter, John. De Niro: A Biography. p. 337. 
  11. ^ Bona, Damien Inside Oscar 2
  12. ^ Dretzka, Gary (November 9, 1995). "Casino Wins Appeal For R Film Rating". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Casino (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Casino reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Golden Globe Awards for 'Sharon Stone'". Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  17. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  18. ^
  • Thompson, David; Christie, Ian (1996). Scorsese on Scorsese. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22002-1. 
  • Evans, David (2006). De Niro: A Biography. 

External links[edit]