Of course, the filmmakers sacrificed the element of control that a set allows. "Oh,
I'll never forget that sound," says Scorsese, referring to the constant din of the slot
machines. "Sometimes dice would go flying and land on my monitor." But what they
got in return was worth it. "The energy was alive, people really winning, yelling and
screaming. We couldn't tell them to be quiet in order to get some dialogue - forget
it - so we have it all on the soundtrack. It's like a breathing mass of people and machines
Filming in a real casino gave the director an opportunity to use the labyrinthine
backrooms and corridors of the Riviera for a dramatic three-minute Steadicam scene. For
the crucial shot, in which the camera follows a bagman as he wends his way through the
bowels of a glitzy Las Vegas casino to collect a mob pay off, camera operator Garret
Brown used the revolutionary new Steadicam system The Master Series. This was the
system's maiden voyage, and it worked spectacularly. The new equipment's sleek design
takes up half the width of previous models, enabling Brown to deftly maneuver around
actors and glide through narrow doorways. And the improved dynamic balancing of the
camera gave Brown the control necessary to execute the lightning quick whip pans that
are the signature of the shot.
Actual Las Vegas dealers and croupiers were cast to move the cards, chips and
dice in the many scenes that take place at the casino tables. Scorsese staged the elaborate
rituals of Vegas gaming with the same intensely scrutinizing eye for detail that he
demonstrated in The Age of lnnocence. As a result, Casino brings to light some
interesting Las Vegas folklore. For instance, it is considered bad luck for a dealer to
a beard. That is why every dealer in the film is notably smooth-faced.
Casino liaison Tim Leary Swan is credited as one of the special consultants who
made sure the film had an authentic look. "The consultants were very instrumental,"
observed Swan. "They were always standing by. Our main consultant showed how with
just a little flip of the hand a card was dealt, or the proper etiquette for distributing
on a craps table. He instructed the actors who are actually dealers in real life that they
were doing things they might do now but wouldn't have done in the seventies. There is
so much in the gaming, there are so many little innuendoes, little tactics and mannerisms
that the pit bosses have versus the casino managers in how they stand and how they poise
themselves at the tables and observe without looking too observant. I think anybody
watching the movie who was very familiar with Vegas during that time period will
recognize those things and be impressed because I think they really caught all that kind of
Adds producer Barbara De Fina, "The hardest thing to find were people who
would teach us how to cheat. A lot of people don't want you to know who they are and
that they know how to cheat, and they certainly don't want the casinos to know who they
are. We did get some people who were willing to show their faces."
Scorsese's insistence on realism in Casino required many weeks of shooting on
location in Las Vegas, using more than 120 locations in and around the town to create
sets that could serve as the casinos of the 1970s as well as buildings and neighborhoods
in the Midwest.
The locations were rigorously marshalled by production designer Dante Ferretti to
evoke Scorsese's favorite filmic period, the sixties and early seventies. "I like the
and that kind of style," said Ferretti. "GoodFellas has some of it, Raging Bull has a
and Mean Streets has it. Casino will have it, too, because it mostly takes place through
seventies. I enjoy that period. I like the music, I like the clothes, I like the movies
were made at that time. It was a formative period for me."
Location manager Maggie Mancuso relished the experience of prepping a
production for filmmakers with such finely observed visions of the period. "It was a
really great opportunity to work with Dante Ferretti and Martin Scorsese," said Mancuso.
"They were pretty specific in what they wanted to see for the look of the movie.
Everyone had a picture in their mind of Las Vegas - for example, that Viva Las Vegas
kind of look. That*s more of a fifties/sixties look rather than seventies. But in order to
make the right statement with this film, they wanted that look with the rock work,
wrought iron, gold trim, red velvet, that sort of gaudy Las Vegas look. That was fun.
The problem was Las Vegas is in flux, so to find these things we were lucky they made
this movie last year instead of next year because these things are rapidly disappearing
from the scene."
Ferretti was undaunted by the paucity of seventies-era architecture. He found
what he was looking for in the Riviera, a working casino, which, though remodeled in
1990, was remodeled in the style of the seventies: "The first part of the casino with the
slot machines, bingo and keno was originally built in 1964," said Ferretti. "And then
when they restored the other side of the casino in 1990, it was done in the same style.
The look of '64 is "in" now in the nineties. They look the same. Thirty years later but
with the same look. For me it's okay, because when the look is right, it is the right look,
it's the right period."
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