Movie makers and film producers have always been drawn to casinos and the thrilling world of gambling for cinematic inspiration. But have you ever wondered what these casinos look like in real life? Here are five real life casino film sets.
Casino, Las Vegas (1995)
Sadly, for fans of Martin Scorsese’s biopic study of the gritty Las Vegas underbelly, Casino, there is little left to see, set wise, for visiting pilgrims. The Landmark Hotel, where the exteriors of the fictional Tangiers Casino were shot, has long been demolished, while the interiors, which were filmed at the city’s Riviera, while still standing, had to close temporarily to make room for an expansion in to a Convention Centre. For those not familiar with the film, Scorsese re-hires much of his Goodfellas cast and transfers the mob fuelled action from New Jersey and New York, south-westwards into the Nevada desert. Once again, the mob are heavily involved as the Chicago mafia begin to turn Vegas into the gambling hub we know it as today. Focusing on Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a gambler, a mobster and a hooker are handed the keys to a Las Vegas casino, The Tangiers, and rather than being the custodians their mob bosses wanted, bring the whole empire unwittingly to its knees.
Swingers, Las Vegas (1996)
The Stardust Hotel & Casino plays a central role in the next film, Swingers. This mid nineties indie hit was famously written by its stars in an attempt to catch the eye of big time Hollywood, a plan that worked as both actors, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughan, are still very much in demand to this day. In the film, the pair play wannabe actors who are obsessed with Italian American culture, and Mike is suffering from depression when we meet him. Having left New York for Los Angeles following a break up, Mike is having a hard time putting the past behind him so his best friend, LA based Trent, decides to help get him back in the game and where better to do that than on a trip to Vegas where the Stardust awaits.
Casino Royale, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic (2006)
Perhaps the cinema scene that captures high stakes Hold’em better than any other was filmed, not in Montenegro as the story pretends, but in the Czech Republic. The exterior for the casino in the story was actually filmed at a famous Czech spa named “Lazne Spa I”, the former Kaiserbad Spa, according to the film’s credits. While the poker scene on which the plot hinges is filmed rather less glamorously at Pinewood Studios, a great deal of the movie was filmed overseas. This is because, like most Bond stories, the narrative jumps from continent to continent on the whim of the writer and Casino Royale is no different. Of course, the whole story centres on the game of Hold’em between Bond and baddie as the tension builds before 007 lays down his royal flush and terrorist Le Chiffre busts in more ways than one.
The Hangover, Las Vegas (2009)
Classic man comedy, The Hangover, is a riot of testosterone fuelled excess, in which everything debauched that Las Vegas revels in is served in as much filth as possible. This late last decade hit even inspired two similar sequels neither of which came close to the original. Brilliantly told – kind of – in reverse, we are forced to relive the drunken steps from the night before as the gang, Phil, Alan and Stu (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms), search for the groom, Doug, whose stag party they were supposed to celebrating in the first place. Through each misguided and hazily recalled step, we are led from one disaster to another before we finally find our man, sunburnt from the desert sun on top of the hotel where the silly jokers had left him the night before. The casino in the film? Why, none other than the world-famous Caesar’s Palace of course.
Reindeer Games, British Columbia (2000)
John Frankenheimer’s winter tale of Michigan based bad boy Rudy, currently serving out his last few days of a prison stretch, masquerading as a fallen convict is a fun little millennium Christmas crime caper. Inspired by his creepy obsession with Ashley (Charlize Theron), Rudy takes the place of Nick who died behind bars and who, in life, was pen friending Ashley. As fate would have it, Ashley’s brother also enjoys a little bit of crime here and there and duly recruits Rudy/Nick to undertake a robbery on the American Indian Tomahawk Casino, a job for which Rudy is hopelessly under skilled. For the sake of spoilers, we’ll leave it there but suffice to say, despite its endless supply of dodgy Christmas puns, it is a lot of fun. Oh, and ignore its Michigan setting, the film was actually shot in various locations across British Colombia in Canada. Canadians have a heritage of playing in casinos, both live and online. There are over 50 brick and mortar casinos across the land and all of them are popular. Just as popular are the online real money casinos that are thriving in the current market. Casinos like 888, Jackpot City and Canada’s own PokerStars are all doing well thanks to deposit offers, convenience and play or real money options.