Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nicholas Pileggi. Transcript. Audio Commentary, Casino SE DVD. 2005.

1.       Originally, I started writing this as a book. I was working on Goodfellas at the time. Once that was pretty much out of the way, [Scorsese] knew I was doing this book on casino Business, and I would just tell him these bizarre stories. The scheme, and explained a lot of the stuff, too. He knew some of it, and he’d always been interested in casino world. Because if you think in [Scorsese]’s case, it’s like a trilogy, I think. Mean Streets, just kids, really street punks. Selling jap adapters, you can’t be lower than that. And then we go to Goodfellas, but Goodfellas came along quite a few years later, and [Scorsese] was interested in kids from Mean Streets growing up. This was who they were, he knew them better than anyone. He understood that they lived big and they could go to the Copacabana, it was still not, it was all coming down and it all crashed, and that was the second level, the middle-class mob. But he was also fascinated by the top of the mobworld, and that of course is the casinos. Where is the mob better situated in those days than Las Vegas and the casinos, because they through their connexions actually owned the casinos. Their names couldn’t be on them, because they were crooked. But they owned the casinos, and skipped them millions and millions of dollars.
2.       They were given a full Las Vegas casinos to run, and all these casinos do is to churn out millions of dollars a day. And they screwed it up, because these guys are always going to screw it up. They are so willfull and so in need of a immediate gratification and so blind to the consequences of their Actions, that in the end they screw it up. I guess you could call it Biblical or you could call it Darwinian. But whatever it is, it makes the great Drama, I think. And I think [Scorsese] agrees that it makes a good Drama, and it makes pretty good movies, if you get it right.
3.       Never again will wiseguys be able to control the casino in Las Vegas. To this day. Now they no longer do. That ended it for them, and the only reason that ended by the way is that as a result of that trial and that case. The Teamsters Pension Fund was taken over by the Federal Government, and the mob could no longer control where Pension Fund lent money. That’s the way they controlled the casinos. They controlled the members of the trustees, the trustees of the central States Pension Fund, they were all controlled by mob guys. Six out of eight, or four out of six, I can’t remember, but the majority, and therefore they were able to lend 62 million dollars to [Rosenthal]’s friends, who then bought the casino and prop the guy up there as a legitimate owner, and brought [Rosenthal] in to run it, because that guided that casino. Ace didn’t even want to do it, he didn’t want to go, but he wound up going, because you don’t say No to those guys that often. But if you wind up just covering the financial manipulations of the Teamster Pensions Fund and the scheme and all that stuff done abstractly like a business reporting, there’s no way there’s a movie there, there’s hardly a book. It becomes basically a treatise, something you might read in a Business school. “Why didn’t this work? Well, it didn’t work, because.” Once you can humanise the people, because all of this was being done by people. It may be numbers, but the numbers being written by people, being accumulated by people. Once you see the people who were involved, and then you find they have unbelievable soap-opera lives, and that it’s the soap-opera lives, it’s the insanity that brings down a hundred, two hundred million dollars apparatus. It’s just fascinating. It’s the story, the narrative, the human story that gets you into the big story. It makes the boringness of actuarial numbers and Business stuff, it makes that stuff fascinating. That’s the key. You’ve got to get in with the real story and the real people. I talked to these guys. I’ve got their Language. I’ve got them on tape. I have the way they sound, and you can’t write that, you know, in Film school in Malibu at the side of the mountain, no matter how many hallucinogens you take. [Acurate.] You can’t write the way a guy out of the Chicago gangs talk or a gambler in New York. When you’ve got that body of dialogue, which it is, just all that Language, how can you not use it? Because he is telling you the story. It’s priceless. Then put it in all trumped-up dialogue, and try to make it fit, there’s no reason to do that. It’s not me, I didn’t write that. I re-typed it, I cleaned it up, I abridged stuff, I took out the stuff about his mother-in-law. But I made it, and [Scorsese] made it, so that it was a part of the narrative. You’re hearing those guys talk, when they talk, you may have never met a gangster, but when you hear Henry Hill talk, when you hear [Rosenthal] talk, when you hear [Spilotro] talk, that’s the way they talk.
4.       We’d meet at the old Drake Hotel, and we had a suite, and I had my computer there, and we had a printer there. We’d just move all the stuff in. And sometimes [Scorsese]’s dog. That was basically it. I had already outlined a book to some degree. [Scorsese] had gone over the outline. We did this for Goodfellas as well, Wiseguy the Book. We tried to say what is the narrative storyline? And I’ll come up with a version, and he’ll come up with a version, and we kind of move it around until we have the [right] structure. I think the structure in Casino was not my book structure, it was a movie structure. And the structure in the movie, I would say, was 95% [Scorsese]’s. I mean, he just had a vision.
5.       The part by Frank Vincent is actually the guy we’re using as the technical advisor. His real name is Frank Culotta. And he had testifed and gone into the [WitSec]. But I knew him, and he had been really smart and very knowledgeable, and changed his life. I got unbelievable stuff from him. He was like that with [Spilotro]. I’ve got a lot of the early [Spilotro] stuff from him. What [Spilotro] said here, what [Spilotro] said there, I got that from the early Frank stuff. But then, [Rosenthal] started talking. And I wound up with [tape recordings], long [tape recordings] of [Spilotro] talking, FBI stuff that came out in court. And people who really knew [Spilotro] started explaining to me what he said and when. So you begin to build the original early draft, we used the voiceover of the guy I had, but as I’ve got more voices as these people began to open up a little bit. Then I was able to go to different voice-overs. In the end, we had one voice-over, then we realised we had a couple. And we had used a couple of voice-overs in Goodfellas. A lot of people say, You can only have one voice-over. In Goodfellas, you have Henry, and then you also have his wife. Because I’ve got Henry’s wife, Karen, to tell us everything. She said that he gave me the gun, it was heavy, and it turned me on. You can’t make that up. That was Karen. That was actually the key to their relationship. The fact that he was a gangster, that he’d beaten up this guy, that he’d brutalise [someone], and he gave her the gun to put in a milkbox. [Uma Thurman, Samantha Power, Scott Thorson, Scarlett Johansson, Teresa Palmer. Hillary Clinton.] I could never think that somebody would give gun to a girl [from Long Island], and she’s going to put it in the milkbox, and get turned on by it. Who could think that up? The point is, If you do the Journalism and get these people who are the subjects of your narrative, get them to open up and tell you what’s in their hearts and they’re really thinking, what turned them on, how can you not put that in their voice in the movie? So revealing. They sometimes tell you these things, and they don’t know how revealing it is. Sometimes you’re taking notes, and you don’t know how revealing it is until you address it all in the screenplay, in the scenes, because the scenes are all talks, people revealing themselves. And I’d been working on the book, but hadn’t finished it. It was only when we decided to work on the movie, [Scorsese] had a window, we could work on the movie, and suddenly [De Niro] was interested in it. That’s the thing that made the book work, because that’s what opened up all these people distant, not at all forthcoming as I needed them to be. I would have probably had to spend another two years, and I still don’t think I would have gotten what I got in this book, whether it is good or bad or what. But I wouldn’t have gotten the access to people that I got once it was announced that it was a movie, and that Robert De Niro was in the movie. It’s idiotic. Who gets the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, Robert De Niro? I don’t know. It’s ludicrous. But that is where we are today in Society. And the Reality was, When the movie was announced, suddenly it became easier to get information for the book. Everybody was interested. In meeting [] De Niro, [Scorsese], Sharon Stone, oh my God. And people would slam doors in my faces, wouldn’t talk to me, hung up, have their lawyers threaten me, all of a sudden they were calling me up to meet Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese. I’m the writer, all of a sudden, it opened up, so I immediately started doing all the material we had for the book to put it in the movie. The minute that I finished working on the movie, I immediately went back to the book, and typing every minute. And my editor, Michael Korda, unbelievably helpful, because he was really. Because I tried to get the book out before the movie, it’s hard. They’re already shooting the movie in Las Vegas. Actually, I was typing the book in Las Vegas. The publisher wanted the book to come out a year before the movie, so that they can get a nice ride with the book. What happens when you bring out a book at the same time as the movie, People pay ten dollars, twenty dollars, they go see the movie, it’s Casino with Robert De Niro, it’s written by the same guy who wrote the book, what are you going to spend 30 dollars for the book for? They already saw. Am I in the Business of giving Nicholas Pileggi the Money? I go see the movie. So the publisher is sitting there with hundreds of thousands of copy of the book, they know that people are not going to duplicate. The movies sell millions of dollars worth of tickets, nobody’s going to buy. So that’s why they’d like you to read the book first, so bored, nobody’s there, they’ve rung America’s pockets dry, then the paperback comes out with the movie, then you get the second kick with the paperback. Then you have the picture instead of just a normal book cover. Now you have the movie star on the cover on the paperback. Lawyers work all that out in advance that helps sell the paperback.
6.       The only thing he ever did that was illegal when he was in Illinois was Gamble. He was a bookmaker, and he was a gambler, and he was an oddsmaker, he did all the stuff. And Gambling is illegal in Illinois. But it is legal in Las Vegas, in Nevada. So the minute he steps over the border into the State of Nevada, he’s a perfectly legitimate [homo sapiens]. He did everything he’d done in Illinois. In Nevada, he’s totally legitimate. And that gave him such Freedom, that made him feel so good, it was a great benefit to him, just in his heart. And that, I think, that sense of Freedom and release was the part of the thing that made him think that he could actually live a [mainstream honky] life, and find a beautiful girl to marry and have children and live these kind of [unclear] life, which was a dream beyond any chance of being fulfilled.
7.       So he is in madly in love with her, but he understand who she is. This is not Donna Reed coming with Robin Young. Working girl. She’s made money. She’s making a million dollars a year maybe, with her boyfriend. He’s got to make up for that to her. What he’s going to do is, He wants her exclusive to himself. He’s going to say, Whatever you want, you want a million dollars, I’ll give it to you. My sense is, Once we begin to live together as a husband and wife, and maybe we’ll have kids, we’ll go on with our lives, we’ll fall in love. I’m already in love, but you aren’t. But believe me, I’ll make you fall in love with me, which is probably what he felt. She’s a street girl. She’s not. She’s very sophisticated, I even hate using the word, street girl. She’s a knockaround girl, and she knew her way around in Las Vegas. This is an exclusive kind of person in Las Vegas, who is by the way in that kind of Community, all the Respect and the Reputation of legitimate people, even though that’s who she was. In the end, he could never get her to fall in love with him, and I think part of the problem was, She was always in love with the one guy whom she couldn’t control and [] who was really bad to her. All these other guys just gave her money, one guy who was to take it from her, and she let him take it. And I think we see that pretty clearly in the movie, and of course, no one better for that than James Woods.
8.       I know it’s hard to believe sometimes, but they’re all humans. I don’t care how Bad they are or what we think of is Bad or the Society thinks of is Bad. They’re all murderers, they’re killers, they’re brutal, it’s horrible, brutal killer life, and you can get killed just as quickly as you can kill somebody. But that is their life, they know that, at the same time. They are quite often terrific daddys, great mommys, they’re great with their children, they can be very generous, they’re human on million other levels. Except there’s this one trigger, and all of a sudden, you’re dealing with a crocodile or an aligator, and they’ll destroy. But that’s what that world is. That’s one of the things you want to show. You think this is interesting? You think you want to be the Godfather, you want to play in that world? This is what that world is really about, because in the end, these guys are really brutal. They can be good fathers, but they’re brutal. They just don’t feel your pain, as some politicians would say. They just don’t. They’d take your hand, and slame it shut on the automobile door. They feel their pain. They get a splinter, Oh my God, they go to doctor’s. [Fred Fleitz.] They don’t feel any pain of another [homo sapiens]. They can laugh, they can eat, while they’re killing you.
9.       In the kind of Violence we don’t make up. We’re simply telling the story, just the way you tell the story [Rosenthal] fell in love with [Geri McGee], she had a boyfriend on the side. Just as you tell the story she drives her car on their lawn and steps all over the pattunias. You have to tell the violent part, and in the violent part, [Spilotro] literally put a guy’s head in the vice. That’s the way they tried to get this guy to talk. They were in a workshop, and the fastest way they thought they could do it was to put the guy’s head in the vice. And finally the guy, the guy was just a stubborn man, he would not talk. He should have looked at the vice and gave [Spilotro] whatever he wanted. [Spilotro] didn’t even want to, “I don’t want to put your head in the box. Don’t make me do this.” Don’t make me do this. Can you imagine saying that to somebody? [Spilotro] was blaming the guy whom he’s killing for forcing him. That’s the kind of mentality you’re dealing with. [Mark Boal. Ridley Scott. Fred Fleitz. Henry Kissinger. John McCain. Dick Cheney. Hillary Clinton.]  But he did do that, and it’s a horrible scene. It actually happened. It so identifies the [Spilotro] character, just by saying something like Don’t make me do this, you know who he is. Why leave that out? Don’t make the movie if you leave that out. That’s what you’re making the movie about. People might be offended by it. It’s horrible. Don’t go see the movie. I don’t care. If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.
10.   I’m sure there could have been an another woman, and there are millions of them out there, whose husbands are just as obssessive about Money and the accounting. Where is this? He’s neat, he’s clean, he’s neat. Those fifty suit jackets upstairs are all in perfect hangers in a beautiful closet, his house is immaculate, I’ve been to it, everything is. He just lives a clean, rather enviable life. There are women who would find that very appealing, who would find great comfort in it. [Geri McGee] never had to worry about a penny in her life. She didn’t have to worry about anything. [Rosenthal] would have handed her everything. She could have just played tennis, and taken care of the kids, taken them to school, helped them with their homework, cook once in a while, or go out wherever she wanted, he would do it for her. But she was an independent woman. She had been making money and earning money on her own, and was resisting anything he’d tried to impose. So that was the problem they had. Had she been a different woman, I’m sure [the marriage] could have gone on today. Of course, he wasn’t interested. There were many other women he could have married, but [Geri McGee] was the one he wanted. He really loved that woman, the woman he married, truly loved her. They had terrific kids, and yet it couldn’t work. He looks back now with great sadness, what happened. Maybe he would have done it differently, she would have done it differently. But It didn’t work. She was obviously a sick woman, she was addicted to pills, alcohol, and he could never get her out of that. That was the heart of the story, more important to me, and maybe to [Scorsese], than the skimming and the mobster.
11.   That den scene is a critical scene, because everybody is in that room, and you see it falling apart. [Geri McGee]’s drunk, it’s morning, [Geri McGee]’s already loaded in her tennis outfit, and [Rosenthal] grabs her arm and forces her down the stairs, Get out of here. And Sharon Stone’s resistances to his helping her down the stairs is so perfect, it’s such a brilliant piece of acting on her part, because the way she resists his arm is the way she has resisted him throughout the entire drama. That’s when he, [Rosenthal] goes to help [Geri McGee], she holds back. If you see in that scene, if Sharon were in front of a truck, and a truck is coming, and [Rosenthal] would push her out of the way of the truck, she would resist. She would rather get hit by a truck than have this son-of-a-bitch husband of hers save her life. That’s how angry she is. [Accurate.] All of the tension, the whole of the movie has been building in a sense to that scene, where all of the players are playing it out. It was a brilliant scene by Bob and Joe at the end, but equally brilliant by Sharon. Just watch her resist his arms, it’s just great.
12.   I was staying at the Sands Hotel, and I got a call that said that Joe Pesci was coming to the set, and he wanted to see me. I was waiting, he knew where I was. There was a knock on the door, and I opened the door, it wasn’t Joe, but it was [Spilotro], the real guy. I’ve seen, I’ve seen picture of him. He had the little moustache, he had everything, the hair, the style, the dress, the swagger, the style. Because [Spilotro] had been photographed for years in not only surveillance picture, but newsreel. Because he’d wander around and he’d go to the court with his lawyer, Oscar Goodman, who is now the Mayor of Las Vegas, who was unbelievably helpful in the movie and a terrific man. And that was [Spilotro], who was at that time one of the most terrifying person in Las Vegas. Everyone’s afraid of him. And he’d come, and pit bosses would come and look at him, because everybody knew he was dead, but you’re never quite sure with those guys, and they saw Joe dressed like him, looked like him, and made up like him, and there were guys who were almost fainting behind the gambling [table], thinking he’d come back. But of course, everybody knew it was Joe Pesci. Brilliant, brilliant make-up.
13.   The original version we wrote, he asked about so much money, and that was it. [De Niro], No, no, no, no, no, he’s not going to just ask her once or twice, he’s going to stay after her. He’s going to say, What did you do with? Well, I gave him 3,000 for his watch. 3,000, okay, that leaves you with 47,000. What happened to the rest? It was [De Niro]’s insight into the character, this is an accountant, this is a gambler, this is the guy who knew the odds to everything. He was an oddsmaker, he set the odds, he set the odds for all the football games played on Sundays for the mob. He set the odds for the country. He’s not going let somebody get away with 40,000 dollars this way. So [De Niro] kept after [Scorsese] and me in the room. Then he’s going to say this, he’s going to say this. 60,000 for suit? How many suits can a guy buy? He would keep after it, and he just exhausted us. That’s exactly what he does in that scene. He really loves her, he doesn’t want to chase her away, but he is compelled to be one way. He is programmed, it’s in his DNA to get it down for the last five cents, and it drives everybody nuts and chases away the one person he really loves. It’s just fascinating. But [De Niro] spotted it, and made the scene much deeper.
14.   [Geri McGee] getting so angry at her husband for all these other stuff, for getting stoned, getting smashed, so she then starts coming onto [Spilotro]. [Spilotro] because he was so angry at [Rosenthal] is going to screw his wife just to get even at [Rosenthal]. I don’t know, that was not a passionate relationship, that was a get-even relationship. At that point in [Spilotro]’s career, I think [Spilotro] would have loved to put a bullet in [Rosenthal]’s head. He got so angry at him. [Spilotro] was that volatile, he could have done it. He would have been sorry in the morning, he would never tell you. So the next best thing to killing a guy is to cuckholding him in [Spilotro]’s world. So that’s what Nickey does. She’s also angry at [Rosenthal], and the best thing she can do is to betray [Rosenthal] with his best friend. How do you walk away from a soap-opera like that? We should have shown this movie at 9 o’clock in the morning in soaps. It’s classic. It’s classic stuff.
15.   I was in Las Vegas all during the shoot, but I never went to the set. I was within walking distance of the set for three or four months, I never went, because I just feel that I’d get in the way. You’re not performing any service if you’re “just the writer”. There’s so much technical stuff going on, and if you do get there, people come over to say hello, haven’t seen you, that sort of stuff, it just interrupts the rhythm, I feel. And I don’t particularly get a kick out of it to begin with, because it’s all so technical shoot, thirty seconds or a minute or a minute a half, and they change all the lights, and it takes another half an hour, if you’re just watching it, it’s not [something] I would care to do, so I don’t. I don’t bother going to the dailies or do any of that stuff. So when I was in New York, they had a rough cut of the movie. [Scorsese] said, I want you see. I said, Okay. And he’d tell me when he wants me to see it, because he’s really got to lay out in sequence. He’d have other people see it first, he’d have me see it first, because he’s curious about what my reaction would be to something else. Sometimes he tells me where to sit. Don’t go sit there. Way down. I want you to sit there, and I want to watch you, that kind of thing. He said, I want you to see the rough cut. I said, Okay. [Rosenthal] and I went to a small theater, just the two of us in the theater, watching it for the first time, and it was just unbelievable to see. You wrote it, but you can’t put it all together, you can’t put the vast title, you can’t put that St. Matthew’s Passion. When you’re writing, you don’t have the orchestra, you don’t have the colour, you don’t have all of that stuff laid out. When you’re typing, He gets upt from his desk and walks to the closet without his pants. You don’t have the colour turquoise socks, that’s your custume person, that’s your set design, that’s [Scorsese]’s vision for how it goes. So you see it for the first time, it sort of explodes. The movies explodes to you if you’re a writer. It also exploded for [Rosenthal]. He just got up. You would never do anything like hug [Rosenthal], but we came as close to doing it as you can, because I think he was really pleased, he was all that angst and all that memory of that nightmare that he lived through. He felt happy that he helped. The final results was more than I could have dreamed of. It’s such a big movie. It’s so grand. It’s complicated, but it tells a simple story. But it’s complicated in a good way. I think it’s rich, it’s very rich in what it shows of that period. I’m not talking about the writing part. I’m just talking about what [Scorsese] did with it, the combination. I gave him the structure from the book, and we wrote a screenply, but that screenply was so enhanced as screenplays are, the camera angles, the mood, and the colour, and the Music is always so important to [Scorsese]. It’s never failed him. Right back in Boxcar Bertha, he just had it, he just knew that part of it.
16.   They were so angry at him, and they felt that, whatever it [was], they decided he was not going to live, he was not going to die simply. They said they were going to meet him in an Indian cornfield, where they beat him to death with baseball bats, and buried them half-alive in a grave, and nobody would ever see them again. There was no way anyone was going to see them again. It was a great cornfield. And I think [a year later] or a month later, I can’t remember the dates of it, but there was a farmer out there doing his crop, crop was coming up, corn was coming up, he said there was no corn, couldn’t understand what that was, so he called State Game Preserve people, because they’re not supposed to shoot dears there, and they suspected somebody shot some deers and buried the bodies there. So the Game Preserve guy comes up, he starts digging, the first thing he finds is underwear. A deer don’t wear underwear. He calls up the FBI, the FBI, they dig up, and they find the bodies of not only [Spilotro] but his brother. And when they do the autopsy, they realise that these guys had been beaten to death with baseball bats. CSI stuff, I guess. And because some of the sand was in their throats, they realised that they had been still breathing while they were buried, so it was really brutal death. And [Rosenthal], no one really knows who blew him up, the suspicion is now, It was not the powers that be, or he would have been killed again. It was some, probably they feel that it might have been somebody doing it for [Spilotro], because they were so bitter and angry at each other again. The thing about this Cadillac was because there had been a balancing problem, they had put a metal under the seat of the driver, and the bomb had been placed under the passenger seat, and when the bomb went off, the impact of the bomb was deflected by that metal plate. The power of the bomb was going to go where it has the least resistance, so had resistance under his seat, and he was able to get the door open and roll off on the street. He was injured. He went to the hospital, he was banged up badly, but got away just in time, and there was the secondary explosion, but he was out of the car by then. Nobody knew there was that steel plate, and it was only there because of the technical problem they had.

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