The 1995 movie Casino is one of the most well-known films set in and detailing part of the storied history of Las Vegas. Directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese, the movie focuses on a period in Las Vegas when various elements of organized crime were involved in a variety of casinos. Their stock in trade was stealing money from those businesses by way of what came to be known as “the skim.”
The movie’s central characters are based on actual individuals. Ace Rothstein, played by Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, is based on former Stardust casino operator Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Nicky Santoro, played by Academy Award winner Joe Pesci, is based on former Chicago mobster, Anthony Spilotro. Ginger McKena, played Academy Award nominee Sharon Stone, is based on Las Vegas showgirl and model Gerri McGee.
Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci reunite for the much awaited, upcoming film, The Irishman. Academy Award winner Al Pacino will be in the movie as well, as will Harvey Keitel among others.
In Casino, one of Nicky Santoro’s associates, Frank Marino, played by the now late actor Frank Vincent, is based on Chicago outfit member Frank Cullotta. Mr. Cullotta appeared in an uncredited role in the movie and according to IMDB, he served as a technical advisor for the film.
Frank Cullotta was one of the sources for author, screenwriter and producer Nicholas Pileggi’s book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, which served as inspiration for the movie. Mr. Pileggi wrote the screenplay for Casino, along with Martin Scorsese.
Frank told us, during his CYInterview, that he sat next to Mr. Scorsese during the shooting of the movie Casino and that his input was important to the making of the film. Mr. Cullotta says he left behind his life of crime when he became a government witness and went into the witness protection program, which he later left.
Fast forward almost 25 years. Today, Frank Cullotta is 81 years old and lives in Las Vegas. He has written numerous books and gives private tours of some of the places in Las Vegas where scenes from the movie Casino were filmed.
Mr. Cullotta took CYInterview on his tour recently, sharing stories about the real life events that took place there. You can see a picture with me and Frank during the tour, above.
Days prior to the tour, we spoke with Frank for an hour plus CYInterview, about many topics concerning the movie Casino. You can read some of the highlights and listen to the entire CYInterview below:
As a technical advisor for Casino, Frank Cullotta says his input was important in getting the film made:
“Well, from what I was told, if I had nothing to do with the movie, they could’ve never done the movie. They needed my input on the movie because I was one of the true players in real life. So in order to put this movie together, they needed a true player that actually was a character that participated in these robberies and murders and that’s how I was selected. And I was told this by, actually, Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi.”
Frank Cullotta tells us about his role as a technical advisor for Casino working alongside director Martin Scorsese:
“I more or less told him if the scene was not the right way, he would change it. And if it was the right way, he’d change it the way I’d wanted it to be. He followed everything I said because he wanted, honesty, reality in the movie. I just didn’t feel it was a big deal at that point. Then I realized it later because other stars in the show we’re telling me, wow, we can’t even sit next to Marty when he’s going through directing a movie.”
Looking back on his life of crime as a mobster, Mr. Cullotta offered somewhat of a lament about it, while obliquely offering parenting advice:
“It wasn’t a bed of roses to start with. It may sound like it, you know, you see it in movies, but it’s not a bed of roses. There’s probably more bumps than there is smoothness. But this is, in other words, don’t beat your kids.”
Frank Cullotta’s tour is interesting. He is an intelligent man, whose past is littered with mistakes that he must live with. I imagine if he had grown up in a different environment, he might have ended up as a professor or a legitimate businessman. His story is now one part Hollywood legend, one part cautionary tale and one part aftermath.
Martin Scorsese is a world renowned director. Some of his films, particularly Goodfellas and Casino are iconic. With the opening of The Irishman fast approaching, there is sure to be renewed interest in Casino. With that said, Mr. Culllotta tour can give insight to a Scorsese film buff or anyone who wants to know more about some of Las Vegas’s storied past.
Listen to the entire Frank Cullotta CYInterview:
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You can find more information about Frank Cullotta’s books and Las Vegas Tour by visiting his official website clicking here.