"Casino" is a historical mob drama chronicling the rise and fall of mafia involvement in the Las Vegas casino industry. Based on real events, "Casino" is Nicholas Pileggi's adaptation of his own book, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas (1995).
Two significant characters in "Casino" are Latter-day Saints, or based partially on real-life Latter-day Saints. One character ("John Nance") is called an "old Mormon" by Joe Pesci's character "Nicky" approximately 8 minutes, 28 seconds after the start of the film. Another character ("Senator Harrison Roberts") is based partially on real-life Latter-day Saint politician Senator Harry Reid, who served as a Nevada state senator at the time period depicted in "Casino," and eventually became the Senate Minority Leader for the U.S. Senate.
The real-life mob figure Anthony "Tony" Spilotro (who was portrayed in the film by Joe Pesci, using the name "Nicky Santoro") had a girlfriend who was a Latter-day Saint. Her name was Sheryl, and her time with Tony Spilotro (i.e., "Nicky Santoro") is described in Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. Sheryl was not included as a character in the film version of Casino.
"Casino" focuses on "Sam 'Ace' Rothstein" (Robert De Niro), who is assigned by mafia bosses to head up a lucrative hotel and casino. Rothstein knows that money is skimmed from the profits of his casino and sent to the mafia bosses that backed the operation, but for the most part he runs a legitimate business and has no interest in hurting anybody. Rothstein's boyhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is also part of the mafia, but comes to Las Vegas to make money through myriad ruthless, criminal methods, including extortion, burglary and murder.
Sharon Stone plays "Ginger," a beautiful grifter whose outgoing personality catches Rothstein's attention. Rothstein courts and marries Ginger, but theirs is a stormy relationship. Despite marriage to Rothstein, Ginger remains committed to low-life crook and parasite named "Lester Diamond" (played by Vernal, Utah native James Woods). She also has an affair with her husband's friend Nicky. Sharon Stone received a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nomination for her role. Acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director for "Casino."
The name of the "Senator" is never mentioned in the "Casino" screenplay. The Senator's name is never spoken aloud in the film. But we know that the influential Senator character is named "Harrison Roberts." The Senator's name is shown prominently on a placard in front of him at the Senate Gaming Commission hearing at which Sam Rothstein's gaming license is revoked. The name of Senator "Harrison Roberts" is intentionally similar to Senator Harry Reid's name. They share the same initials, and "Harrison" would likely be called "Harry" for short.
Ten years after "Casino" was released, Sen. Harry Reid became the highest-ranking Democrat in the United States when he became the Senate Minority Leader. This also made Reid the highest-ranking elected Latter-day Saint in the U.S. federal government. (Mike Leavitt, another devout Latter-day Saint, concurrently held a Cabinet-level position as Secretary of Health and Human Services, but that is an appointed office.)
Another award-winning movie with a Harry Reid connection is Steven Soderbergh's Academy Award-winning movie about the U.S. drug war "Traffic" (2000), in which Harry Reid makes a cameo appearance as himself, discussing policy with Michael Douglas in a Washington, D.C. reception. Senator Orrin Hatch, another high-ranking Latter-day Saint politician, appeared as himself in the same scene in "Traffic."
In an article by Chris Suellentrop, Slate reported (22 Dec. 2004, http://slate.msn.com/id/2111392/):
Reid may not be the most colorful figure in Washington, but his career is far more interesting than that of the average senator. In politics, Nevada is the next best thing to Louisiana. To take just one example, is there another U.S. senator who has been part of the inspiration for a character in a Martin Scorsese film? (A character played by Dick Smothers, no less.) In Casino, Robert DeNiro's character melts down in front of the Nevada Gaming Commission after the commission denies him a license to operate a casino. The scene is loosely based on a December 1978 hearing when Reid was the commission's chairman, and some of the dialogue spoken by Smothers is taken directly from Reid's words during the hearing. (The rest of the scenes involving Smothers, who plays a composite politician known only as "Senator," have nothing to do with Reid.) OK, it's lackluster Scorsese, but at least it's not Gangs of New York. And there are other Reid echoes in Casino: Joe Pesci's character refers to a "Mr. Cleanface," which gangster Joe Agosto said was his nickname for an in-his-pocket Reid, but a five-month investigation of Agosto's claims cleared Reid of wrongdoing.Note that although the actual hearing that the "Casino" scene is based on took place in December 1978, the scene is set in 1980 in the movie.
Below the section from the "Casino" screenplay in which Joe Pesci's character "Nicky" refers to "Mr. Clean Face," which a gangster said was his nickname for Sen. Reid (line 7625). This passage does not appear to refer to the Senator in the screenplay.
The phone rings. It's NICKY. ACE (Into telephone) Hello. NICKY (Over telephone) Listen... EXT. STRIP MALL PUBLIC PHONE BOOTH - NIGHT We see NICKY through the telephone booth glass. NICKY (Into telephone) ...I gotta meet Clean Face right away. What about the Chez Paree? SUPER SUBTITLE 'I gotta meet Charlie the Banker right away at your house, okay?' ACE (Into telephone) No, you, you can't. You gotta make a reservation.
In a column for Hot Boxing News ("Talkin' Boxin'", 10 March 2003; URL: http://www.hotboxingnews.com/reed/reed030903.htm), Howie Reed wrote:
It should be noted that at one time Senator Reid was the Chairman of the State Gaming Commission. His tenure included the period of time featured in the movie Casino. On Federal Wiretaps some claim that his voice turns up in regard to the securing of a gaming license for the late Frank Sinatra. It is also alleged that the Dick Smothers role in Casino was drawn on the Chairmanship of Mr. Reid.A website called "Choose Our President 2008" discusses potential presidential candidates for the 2008 race. The page analyzing Sen. Reid's chances as a Presidential hopeful mention "Casino" (http://members.aol.com/ourprez08/reid.html):
Political pluses and minuses: Senator Reid was reelected in 2004 for his fourth term as senator from Nevada with a large margin, and is now the new top Democrat in the United States government, the public face of the opposition for the foreseeable future. Reid is moderate, deliberate and soft-spoken, with a reputation for integrity and bipartisanship. He fought the mob in Vegas during the seventies as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, putting his life on the line (and is rumored to be the inspiration for Dick Smothers's character in Martin Scorsese's Casino). Reid has the advantage for the 2008 race of not having to run for reelection to the Senate, and has a new visibility and influence as Minority Leader. Not a Southern governor, Reid could nevertheless be a strong presidential or vice presidential candidate. He would be our first Mormon president or vice president, and our second named Harry.The Explore-Biography.com Dictionary of Famous People notes "Casino" in its capsule biography of Sen. Harry Reid (http://www.explore-biography.com/religious_figures/H/Harry_Reid.html):
Harry Mason Reid (born December 2, 1939) is the senior United States Senator from Nevada and a member of the Democratic Party, for which he serves as Minority Leader.As mentioned above, the Nevada state senator played by Dick Smothers in "Casino" is known only as the SENATOR in the script. The Senator in "Casino" is a composite character not intended purely as a depiction of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. However, one scene is based losely on a December 1978 hearing which Reid presided over as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Some of the dialogue spoken by the Senator (as played by Dick Smothers) was taken directly from Reid's words during the hearing.
A Latter-day Saint and native of the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, his father was an alcoholic gold miner who committed suicide. Reid was a lawyer in the state before entering politics, serving a term in the Nevada state legislature and then being elected lieutenant governor in 1970. He served in that office until 1974.
Reid served as Nevada state gaming commissioner from 1977 to 1981, a post which subjected him to threats of danger. Reid's wife once found a bomb attached to one of their cars. A character in the film Casino played by Dick Smothers is based, in part, on Reid. Reid was also bribed by Jack Gordon (who would later manage and marry LaToya Jackson). Reid allowed the FBI to tape Gordon's attempt to bribe Reid with $12,000, at which point Reid attempted to strangle Gordon, saying "You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me."
Reid was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He served two terms there, from 1983 to 1987, being reelected in 1984. He was elected to the Senate in 1986, succeeding the Republican incumbent, Paul Laxalt, who did not run in that election. Reid was reelected in 1992, 1998 and 2004. He narrowly defeated his Republican opponent in 1998, future Senator John Ensign (Ensign won Nevada's other Senate seat in 2000) and his Republican opponent in 2004 was Richard Ziser, whom Reid defeated by a vote of 61%-35%. Mike Ensign, Senator Ensign's father, contributed $2,000 to Reid's 2004 Senate campaign. In 1999, Reid became Minority Whip, and the right hand man of Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota
On November 16, 2004, Reid was elected Senate Democratic Leader and Minority Leader for the 109th Congress, following Daschle's defeat in his bid for reelection.
Some consider Harry Reid pro-life, or an opponent of legalized abortion, because of his vote against support of Roe v. Wade in 2004. However, Reid has subsequently refused to state he wants Roe v. Wade overturned. Reid is currently also the only Democratic Mormon Senator. Four other members in the Senate are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they are all Republican.
Below is an excerpt from the screenplay featuring this scene (beginning at line 8838 of the 15,177-line script):
INT. GAMING CONTROL BOARD HEARING ROOM, LAS VEGAS 1980 - DAY ACE is in the court with OSCAR GOODMAN, his lawyer, facing the Control Board's Chairman and six COMMISSIONER MEMBERS. The Chairman is the SENATOR we saw earlier in the casino suite taking chips out of the bureau drawer. The room is jam- packed: GREEN, GINGER, SHERBERT, as well as WEBB, reporters and other spectators. ACE's secretaries carry in legal papers. There are piles of briefs and law books on OSCAR's and ACE's table. OSCAR Mr Chairman and members of the Commission. Mr Rothstein is pleased to be here today. ACE (V.O.) And when the day finally came, I was ready. I felt so confident that all I had to do was present my case. OSCAR ...evidence... and we have documents, one of which is a report by retired FBI agents, which completely absolves (holding up a large file folder) Mr Rothstein from any wrongdoing. I'd like this marked, please, Mr Chairman. SENATOR (Into microphone) Pardon me, counselor. Before you continue... OSCAR No, I want to have this marked, Mr. - SENATOR (Into microphone) ...this, uh, this Commission is prepared to act on a motion denying the Rothstein application. OSCAR Denying? SENATOR (Into microphone) Do I hear a motion seconded? OSCAR Mr. Chairman - CONTROL BOARD MEMBER #1 (Into microphone) Mr. Chairman, I second the motion. SENATOR (Into microphone) Do I have a vote on the motion? OSCAR Mr. Chairman - The COMMISSIONERS quickly repeat: CONTROL BOARD MEMBER #2 (Into microphone) Aye. CONTROL BOARD MEMBER #3 (Into microphone) Aye. CONTROL BOARD MEMBER #4 (Into microphone) Aye. SENATOR (Into microphone) The ayes have it. This hearing is adjourned. The CHAIRMAN bangs his gavel and prepares to leave. The COMMISSIONERS hurriedly pack up their papers. An enraged ACE rises and approaches the SENATOR. TV CAMERAS ROLL. ACE (Getting up) You guys have to be kidding. The SENATOR picks up his briefcase. ACE Adjourned! What do you mean, adjourned? OSCAR Mr. Chairman, please. ACE Mr. Chairman... The SENATOR picks up his folder. ACE Senator, you promised me a hearing. We see WEBB seated in the first row, watching. ACE You won't allow me a hearing? You didn't even look at the FBI reports. A reporter holds a microphone up to the SENATOR. ACE When you were my guest, Mr. Chairman, Senator, at the Tangiers Hotel, did you not promise me that I would have a fair hearing - The SENATOR bends down to a microphone. SENATOR (Interrupting, into microphone) I was never - I was never your guest at the Tangiers. ACE You were never my guest?! SENATOR (Into microphone) That's right. ACE I never comped you?! I don't comp you at least two or three times a month at the Tangiers?! SENATOR (Into microphone) Uh, I - I'd... I'd like to answer - answer that at this time. ACE Liar. SENATOR (Into microphone) Mr Rothstein is being very typical to this point. ACE He's lying. WEBB starts to leave. SENATOR The only time I was at the Tangiers was when I had dinner with Barney Greenstein. ACE Was I at that dinner? Just tell me - SENATOR You were wandering around. ACE Was I at that dinner? SENATOR You were wandering around. ACE Was I at that dinner? SENATOR You were wandering around. ACE Was I at that dinner? SENATOR You were in the m- You were in the building. ACE I was in the building! GREEN, embarrassed by ACE's behaviour, starts to get up. ACE You know damn well I was at that dinner, and you swore to me that I would have a fair hearing at that dinner! Did you not?! Did you not?! (Pause, ACE looks at OSCAR.) Well, tell me I was at least at the dinner! A-allow me that much. (Pause.) Give me that much at least! SENATOR (Hesitates) Yes, you were. The SENATOR starts to walk out. ACE Yeah, thanks for not callin' me a liar. You son-of-a-bitch. You son-of-
The scenes in "Casino" which feature the Senator (including the scenes in the casino which were not based on real-life Latter-day Saint Senator Harry Reid) comprise 309 lines of the the 15,177-line script, or 2.0% of the length of the screenplay.
Now this old Mormon [EXPLETIVE] here, he had to fly in with suitcases once a month. Nice and easy.Nance (played by Bill Allison) is one of the key money men in the hotel's operations. Nance is what is known as a "bagman." Early in the movie (beginning 6 minutes, 21 seconds after the start of the film), John Nance is shown walking through the casino, going into the money-counting room, filling a suitcase with cash, flying to Kansas, and delivering the money to the mob bosses. The section ends 9 minutes, 31 seconds after the start of the film, meaning this section focusing on Nance is 3 minutes, 10 seconds long.
Nance appears in subsequent scenes, although he has few lines after this scene. Eventually Nance is killed by operatives working for Joe Pesci's character "Nicky."
It is not clear from the film if Joe Pesci means that Nance actually is a Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), or if Nance simply reminds Pesci of Mormons because of his clean-cut look and clean-living ways. Nance knowingly assists the mafia in skimming money from the casino, so obviously if he is a Latter-day Saint his work for the casino violates the 12th Article of Faith:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.In doing research about the "John Nance" character in "Casino," I could not find any information about an actual Las Vegas bagman or high-level casino operative by this name. It is entirely possible that the character is based on a real person, but the name seems to be entirely fictional.
Boston-born actor "Jack Nance" (whose birth name was Marvin John Nance) has no connection to the "John Nance" character in "Casino." Jack Nance was credited as "John Nance" when he had the lead role ("Henry Spencer") in David Lynch's movie "Eraserhead" (1977). Nance may be best known for his supporting role as "Pete Martell" in Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks." He also appeared in all of Lynch's movies after "Eraserhead" (except for "Elephant Man"), including: "Lost Highway" (a 1997 movie which features a major character from Utah) and "Blue Velvet" (1986). John Nance (or "Jack Nance") the actor was born in 1943, so he would have been only 30 years old at the time his first scene in "Casino" takes place: 1973. In that scene, Nance is clearly an older man, probably at least 60 years old. Moreover, John "Jack" Nance spent his career as an actor, and did not work or live in Las Vegas. Clearly "John Nance" in "Casino" has no connection to the similarly-named actor.
Bill Allison, the actor who plays "John Nance" in "Casino" really does have a casino background. Allison owned the historic Mizpah hotel-casino in Tonopah for 16 years during the 1970s and 1980s. Bill Allison was originally hired as a consultant for the production of "Casino," but ended up being cast as an actor in the film as well. Bill Allison had no prior acting experience.
While Bill Allison's character "John Nance" is called a "Mormon" in the film, and he may indeed be intended by the writers to be a Latter-day Saint, actor Bill Allison is not known to be a Latter-day Saint.
Interestingly enough, Bill Allison subsequently played a casino guard in the Las Vegas casino movie "Ocean's Eleven" (2001). Coincidentally, "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) holds the record as the highest-grossing movie ever to feature main characters overtly identified as Latter-day Saints. One of Bill Allison's only other film roles aside from "Casino" (in which Joe Pesci calls him a "Mormon") and "Ocean's Eleven" (in which he co-stars with two Mormon characters - Virgil and Turk Malloy) is the short film "Courage & Stupidity" (2004), which was filmed in Salt Lake City. "Courage & Stupidity" is a fictional comedy about what "really" happened between a young Steven Spielberg (Todd Wall) and a young George Lucas (Aaron Fiore) during the filming of "Jaws." Bill Allison plays a movie producer in "Courage & Stupidity." Latter-day Saint actors in the film's cast include Johnny Biscuit ("Handcart", "The Singles Ward") and Brian Sullivan. The film was written and directed by Utahn Darin Beckstead. The director of photography was Latter-day Saint cinematographer Brian Sullivan (Getting There; Little Secrets; Coyote Summer; The Paper Brigade; Wish Upon a Star; The Brainiacs.com; Just Like Dad; etc.) and special effects were by Ben Josephsen.
Aside from "Casino," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Courage & Stupidity," the only other film role listed for Bill Allison on IMDb.com is a small part in "Stuey" (2003), which was filmed partially in Las Vegas and has no known Latter-day Saint characters.
The character "John Nance" is only overtly described as a "Mormon" once in "Casino" - in the section of the film in which he first appears. The character appears in many subsequent scenes. Nance really never does anything in the film that clearly indicates he is a Latter-day Saint. Nor does he ever do anything that clearly indicates he is not one (aside from the connection to the mafia that his job entails).
Below is an excerpt from the "Casino" screenplay, featuring the scenes which follow Nance ("a Mormon," according to Joe Pesci's character) as he brings money from the casino in Las Vegas to the operation's real backers in Kansas City. Although Nance has relatively few lines during this section, the camera focuses on him almost non-stop during these scenes.
6 minutes, 21 seconds after the start of the film:
INT. TANGIERS/FLOOR/SOFT COUNT ROOM - DAY Camera follows JOHN NANCE carrying a small suitcase and walking through the casino to a door leading to the cashier's cage. The sign on the door reads 'Authorized Personnel Only'. He walks through the cage, to another door: 'Notice - Keep Out'. ACE (V.O.) We're the only winners. The players don't stand a chance. And their cash flows from the tables to our boxes ...through the cage and into the most sacred room in the casino ...the place where they add up all the money ...the holy of holies ...the count room. He opens the door. We see inside the count room from NANCE'S point of view. It looks like the area behind a teller's cage in a bank. A large room, windowless, decor-free. One side is a mesh cage, opened to reveal stacks of cash boxes. Several COUNTERS in white shirts are gathered around a glass table counting and sorting paper money.) ACE (V.O.) Now this place was off limits. COUNTER #1 Verify two thousand. ACE (V.O.) Even I couldn't get inside, but it was my job to keep it filled with cash. That's for sure. NICKY (V.O.) They had so much [EXPLETIVE] money in there, you could build a house out of stacks of $100 bills. And the best part was that upstairs, the board of directors didn't know what the [EXPLETIVE] was going on. At one end of the room the clerks empty the metal boxes and rapidly count the cash at a counting table. The camera follows a cash 'drop box' being lifted from the stack by a clerk. He pours the cash on to the table and shows the empty box to a video camera. COUNTER #2 rapidly counts the cash and announces: COUNTER #2 Five thousand. NICKY (V.O.) I mean, to them everything looked on the up and up. Right? Wrong. The first counter recounts the cash. COUNTER #1 Verify five thousand. NICKY (V.O.) The guys inside the counting room... Stacks of bills lie nearby. The camera pans across the room to another table manned by a COUNT ROOM EXECUTIVE who repeats the figure and writes it down on a master list. COUNT ROOM EXEC Five thousand. We move back to NANCE opening a cabinet full of stacks of $100 bills. He opens his suitcase and begins to fill it with cash. As he does this, the workers studiously look in other directions. NICKY (V.O.) ...were all slipped in there to skim the joint dry. They'd do short counts, they'd lose fill slips. They'd even take cash right out of the drop boxes. And it was up to this guy right here [NANCE], standin' in front of about two million dollars, to skim the cash off the top without anybody gettin' wise ...the IRS or anybody. COUNTER #1 Verify two hundred. NANCE closes the case and walks out. One of the counters dumps another container of money on the table. NICKY (V.O.) Now, notice how in the count room nobody ever seems to see anything. Somehow, somebody's always lookin' the other way. Now, look at these guys [COUNTERS]. They look busy, right? They're countin' money. Who wants to bother them? I mean, God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal. Meanwhile, you're in and you're out. NANCE exits the count room and proceeds through the lobby of the casino, passing ACE and SHERBERT, to a side exit door. NICKY Past the jag-off guard who gets an extra c-note a week just to watch the door. I mean, it's routine. Business as usual: in, out, hello, goodbye. And that's all there is to it. Just another fat [EXPLETIVE] walkin' out of the casino with a suitcase. Now, that suitcase was goin' straight to one place: right to Kansas City ...which was as close to Las Vegas as the Midwest bosses could go without gettin' themselves arrested. NANCE leaves the casino and gets into a cab parked at the curb. EXT. KANSAS CITY AIRPORT - DAY NANCE arrives. He is greeted by ARTIE PISCANO, a gray-haired sixty-year-old underboss. TITLE IN: 'KANSAS CITY' NICKY (V.O.) That suitcase was all the bosses ever wanted ...and they wanted it every month. PISCANO Hey, John, how are you? How was your ride? EXT. SAN MARINO ITALIAN GROCERY, KANSAS CITY - DAY NANCE, with suitcase, and PISCANO leave the car and enter the produce market. NICKY (V.O.) Now this old Mormon [EXPLETIVE] here... CUT TO: NANCE, AS HE GETS OUT OF PISCANO'S CAR INT. SAN MARINO ITALIAN GROCERY, KANSAS CITY - DAY NANCE and PISCANO walk through the grocery store, through the warehouse, past various employees to a doorway leading into the back room, where they are greeted by five older men around a large wooden table with bowls of macaroni and old jelly glasses filled with red wine. NICKY (V.O.) ...he had to fly in with suitcases once a month, nice and easy. NANCE Somethin' smells good. PISCANO Yeah, they made us somethin' to eat. NICKY (V.O.) The bosses would come from all over the place: Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee. All over the Midwest. And they would meet in the back of this produce market in Kansas City. I mean, nobody even knew. NANCE shakes hands with AMERICO CAPELLI, sixty-eight, a bald, affable Milwaukee entrepreneur and ARTHUR CAPP, his thirty- year-old yuppie lawyer son. Camera continues to pan around the room. NICKY (V.O.) One of the guys made his mother do all the cooking. On VINCENT BORELLI, seventy-year-old Kansas City boss. BORELLI Did you ever see that guy Jerry Steriano? On VINNIE FORLANO, mid-seventies, an old-timer who once drove for Capone and is now Remo Gaggi's right-hand man. FORLANO Jerry Steriano? BORELLI Yeah. NICKY (V.O.) Now, these old greaseballs might not look it, but believe me, these are the guys who secretly controlled Las Vegas. PISCANO joins his MOTHER and DAUGHTER by a stove. PISCANO'S MOTHER That man's here again. Piscano dips a piece of bread into a pot of tomato sauce. NICKY (V.O.) Because they controlled the Teamsters' Union, and that's where you had to go if you wanted to borrow money to buy a casino. BORELLI (O.S.) When you've finished with him, I want him. PISCANO'S MOTHER (Carrying a plate of food to the table where BORELLI and FORLANO are seated.) Here you are, gentlemen. NICKY (V.O.) And nobody got a Teamsters' loan, unless the guys in this room knew they were gonna get their little suitcases. FORLANO gets up from the table and walks toward NANCE. NICKY (V.O.) Guys like this antique here [FORLANO], out of Detroit. Or especially guys like Remo Gaggi, the outfit's top boss. NANCE embraces REMO GAGGI who's seated on a couch, and sits across from him. GAGGI You got a round figure on it? NICKY (V.O.) Definitely the most important guy in this room. NANCE (Picking up the suitcase) About twenty pounds. GAGGI So? NANCE That's around seven hundred thousand. GAGGI Uh-huh, good. NANCE opens the case to reveal the money.End of section above: 9 minutes, 31 seconds after the start of the film. This section focusing on Nance is 3 minutes, 10 seconds long.
About half-way through the screenplay (line 7086 of the 15,177-line script), Nance appears for the second time:
INT. TANGIERS HARD COUNT ROOM - DAY Move in on a door that reads: 'Notice - No Admittance - Caution - Hearing Protection Must Be Worn In This Area'. NANCE opens it with a key to reveal the hard count room. Coins tumble of a conveyor belt. NICKY (V.O.) No matter what the problems were outside the count room, it was all worth it. The cash kept rollin' in. And the... EXT. CASINO REAR LOADING PLATFORM - DAY NANCE, dumping two large suitcases in the trunk of a car. NICKY (V.O.) ...suitcases kept comin' and goin'. And let me tell ya, the [EXPLETIVE] bottom line here is... cash. The trunk lid is shut. INT. TANGIERS SOFT COUNT ROOM - DAY The counters sort through a pile of cash on a table. The camera moves on one counter as he pockets some cash. NICKY (V.O.) The only problem was that, after a while, the bosses noticed that the suitcases were gettin' a little light. FREEZE FRAME ON THE COUNTER POCKETING A $100 BILL. INT. SAN MARINO ITALIAN GROCERY/BACK ROOM, KANSAS CITY - DAY NANCE is seated at a table eating with FORLANO, CAPELLI, CAPP, BORELLI, PISCANO and GAGGI. BORELLI Aspett'. [Italian-American slang for 'Wait'] Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that the money we're robbing is bein' robbed? That somebody's robbing from us? We go through all this [EXPLETIVE] trouble, and somebody's robbin' us? GAGGI (To NANCE) Eh? NANCE Like I said, you know, i-it's part of the business. I-it's considered leakage. BORELLI Leakage, my balls. I want the guy who's robbin' us. INT. TANGIERS HARD COUNT ROOM - DAY NANCE enters through a door and walks past a man picking up a bucket of coins and dumping them into a trough. A clerk, seated at a coin weighing scale, places a ticket into a small tray. NANCE reads the printout of the machine. NICKY (V.O.) Even John Nance, that's the guy who ran the skim, he knew there wasn't much you could do about it. You gotta know that a guy who helps you steal, even if you take care of him real well, I mean, he's gonna steal a little bit extra for himself. Makes sense, don't it? Right? Well, you go try and make these hard-headed old greaseballs understand that. INT. SAN MARINO ITALIAN GROCERY/BACK ROOM, KANSAS CITY - DAY BORELLI What's the point of skimming if we're being skimmed? Defeats the whole purpose of what we're doin' out there. GAGGI (To NANCE) Huh? NANCE You know, they take this money because they're my guys. So you gotta give 'em some leeway. NICKY (V.O.) But the bosses never believed in leeway, so listen to what they do: they... INT. SAN MARINO ITALIAN GROCERY/BACK ROOM, KANSAS CITY - DAY BORELLI is talking to PISCANO, his underboss. NICKY (V.O.) ...put Artie Piscano, the underboss of KC, in charge of making sure nobody skimmed the skim.
INT. COURT-ROOM - DAY A JUDGE is seated at his bench. SCOTT and GREEN, surrounded by their lawyers, take their seats. NANCE watches from the back row. ACE (V.O.) ...she sued him in court. JUDGE The court will now hear the matter of the plaintiff, Anna Scott, against Tangiers Corporation and its president, Philip Green. LAWYER #1 Good morning, your Honor. John Momet on behalf of Mr Green. LAWYER #2 Mitchell Logan on behalf of Anna Scott, your Honor. JUDGE Mr Logan, you may proceed. LAWYER #2 Thank you, Judge. As the JUDGE pounds his gavel, we see ANNA SCOTT and a grim GREEN. INT. COURT-HOUSE CORRIDOR - DAY ANNA SCOTT holds an impromptu press conference. SCOTT I believe he was absolutely fair and I'm delighted with the decision. NANCE is talking at a pay phone, SCOTT and the reporters are in the background. NANCE (Into telephone) We got a problem. INT. ALL-AMERICAN GAS STATION, GAGGI'S BACK OFFICE, BACK HOME - DAY CURLY hands GAGGI the phone. He listens. NANCE (Over telephone) It didn't go too well. INT. COURT-HOUSE CORRIDOR - DAY NANCE (As GREEN and his lawyers walk past him, exiting the court-house) Green has to open up the books... has to show how he got the financing. And, hey, that's - that's not good.
THE CAMERA TILTS UP TO THE CEILING AIR VENT TO A TINY MICROPHONE AND TRANSMITTER AT ITS BASE. ACE (V.O.) You can't believe it. I mean, who the hell would believe that the FBI had a wire in the place lookin' for some information about some old homicide about some guy who was whacked-out, God knows when, over God knows what? PISCANO Plus, what's to prevent him with the suitcases, that he can take what he wants? [EXPLETIVE] Nance, he brings us back two suitcases from the Tangiers, and what about three or four? INT. POST OFFICE ACROSS THE STREET, KANSAS CITY - DAY A pen write 'NANCE' on a piece of paper.
INT. TANGIERS CASHIER'S CAGE - DAY NANCE is talking to a cashier behind the cage when FBI AGENTS with Gaming Board investigators DUPREY and AUSTIN enter the casino. FBI AGENT #5 FBI! Don't be alarmed. NANCE rushes out a back door. NICKY (V.O.) But they got almost everybody else. FBI AGENT #5 This area is seized. DUPREY Grab everything in sight. FBI AGENT #6 Right. DUPREY (Walking through a door into the cage) Get the master account list! AUSTIN I want all those papers seized, regardless of what they are.
MONTAGE OF MURDERS: EXT. NANCE'S COSTA RICAN HOUSE - DAY TITLE IN: COSTA RICA The camera moves down a waterfall to reveal NANCE's Spanish- style house. NICKY (V.O.) The first one to skip was John Nance. He found a nice, warm secluded place in Costa Rica. He thought nobody would find him there. Several gunshots are heard. NANCE emerges from the house through a door and runs along a verandah to another door. He breaks a pane of glass, unlocks another door and runs in. BEEPER emerges from the first door and follows him back into the house. Several more shots are heard. NANCE emerges from yet another door, only this time he's been shot in the stomach. He painfully staggers away from the hitmen. NICKY (V.O.) But, then, his kid got nabbed by the Feds for drugs, and so naturally the bosses were afraid he'd come out of hidin' just to save his kid and give 'em all up. So... CURLY and BEEPER come out of the house and approach NANCE from behind. CURLY Hey, where you goin', jag-off? NANCE kneels down. CURLY points his gun expertly at the top of NANCE's head and fires. Blood splatters from NANCE's mouth and he falls to the ground. The gunmen walk away. NICKY (V.O.) But anyway, they, you know, they all had to follow.In total, the scenes featuring "John Nance" comprise 556 lines in the 15,177-line script, or 3.7% of the length of the screenplay. John Nance is a relatively minor character in the movie.
Source: Nicholas Pileggi. Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. New York: Simon & Schuster (1995).
Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas is (according to the book jacket):
...a riveting, true-life story of love and death in Las Vegas, a fatal romantic love triangle betweenThese real-life historical figures were portrayed in the 1995 movie "Casino":
- Lefty Rosenthal, gambling genius, the brains behind the mob's control of the casinos
- Tony Spilotro, Lefty's friend and partner, the muscle of the mob in Las Vegas
- Geri, Lefty's beautiful blond show-girl wife, whose affair with Tony ultimately drove the mob out of the "paradise" they had built for themselves in the desert.
Pages 154 to 158:
As time passed, Spilotro spent less and less time with his wife, Nancy. When they were together, they fought -- and the FBI listened. She complained that he had lost interest in her. She accused him of affairs. He was never home. He never talked to her. In the morning, the FBI recorded the sound of silence as Tony made his coffee and Nancy read the newspaper. Then he would leave for the store without even saying good-bye.
Sometimes Nancy had to call him at work to relay a message; according to Bud Hall, Tony was always rude. "She'd say, 'I don't know if this can wait, but so-and-so called.' 'It can wait,' Tony would say, sort of sarcastically, and just hang up. Or he'd say, in an exasperated tone, 'Nancy, I'm busy,' and hang up. He was never gentlemanly with her, and she'd whine to Dena Harte, Herbie Blitzstein's girlfriend, who managed the front of the Gold Rush. Nancy would tell Dena whenever Tony beat her up or whenever she suspected Tony was fooling around with this one or that one, and Dena kept Nancy informed about what Tony was doing.
"There was one time when Dena called Nancy at home and said, 'The bitch is here.' Nancy jumped in the car and tore over to the place and started screaming at Sheryl, Tony's girlfriend, calling her a no-good [EXPLETIVE] right there in the middle of the store.
"We could hear the screaming on the wire, and then Tony comes out, and then we hear Nancy screaming for Tony to stop hitting her. He was really beating her up. We got worried that he was going to kill her. It was a mess. So we called nine-one-one and said we were in the Black Forest German Restaurant next door, and said someone was being assaulted in the Gold Rush. We couldn't tell the cops who we were because at that point it looked like Tony owned Metro, and we didn't want to blow our surveillance. The police got there in a few minutes, and everything calmed down."
"Nancy had her life and Tony had his," said Frank Cullotta. "Hers was mostly playing tennis and running around in white outfits. She had Vincent and Tony's brothers and their families. Once a week Tony'd take her out to dinner or something. But she wasn't afraid of him. She would scream and yell at him and drive him crazy.
"Once, he told me, she tried to kill him. They were having an argument over something and Tony knocked her across the room. She came up with a loaded thirty-eight cocked at his head. 'I'll kill you if you ever hit me again," she said. Tony said, 'Nancy, think of Vincent.'
"'I saw death,' he told me after. 'We talked until she put down the gun and then I hid all the guns in the house.'"
* * *
"Sheryl was about twenty, but she looked younger," said Rosa Rojas, who was her best friend. "She was a Mormon from northern Utah, cute and fresh. When Tony first met her he used to call her his country girl. She was so naive that when he asked her out, she said she'd only go if she could bring her friend.
"Sheryl and I were both working in the hospital where he was going for his heart problem, which was how they met. They'd go to restaurants, but he never put the make on her. He held her at a distance for a long, long time.
Before he got too close he found out everything there was to find out about her. He had Joey Cusumano ask about where she was from, who her friends were, how long she lived where she lived. He wanted to know everything he could know about her before he got involved or felt he could trust her.
"It was a long time before she knew who he was. She began to suspect something was strange, because every time they went out, they were tailed by cops in plain clothes. Tony's brother told her that there were some legal problems and that Tony was being trailed because of the legal stuff. Tony used to tell us that we were going to read things about him in the newspapers, but he said the newspapers weren't always right.
"It was only after a long time that Tony and Sheryl started going to bed together. He was a gentleman always. Very quiet. Very reserved. I would see him mad sometimes, but I never once heard him curse or use bad language.
"Eventually, he bought her a two-story condo around Eastern and Flamingo, a two-bedroom place for about sixty-nine thousand dollars. It had everything. Refrigerator. Blinds. A washer-dryer. There was a garage and small patio and a sliding door that led into the downstairs, and upstairs they had the bedrooms and a large room that had all of the stereo and TV equipment you would want. That's where they spent most of their time -- watching ball games and listening to music.
"Tony was very generous. He used to leave a thousand dollars a week in a bear-shaped cookie jar in the kitchen. He never mentioned money and it was never mentioned that he was keeping her, but when he bought her a full-length mink coat Sheryl felt he had finally committed himself to her. She had really fallen in love with him.
"She didn't know he was married for quite a while. When she found out, it was very hard. She believed the only reason she and Tony weren't married was because Tony was a very strict Catholic and would have trouble leaving his wife. For a while, Tony even had Sheryl learning to be a Catholic. He gave her religious books to read. He knew the Bible.
"He never ever said anything bad about his wife. They had been married in the church and it was a difficult situation. On top of that. Tony loved his son. Vincent meant everything to him. Vincent was his soul. Tony would always get home at six thirty in the morning so he could be there to make breakfast for Vincent. Sheryl said he would do that even if he was in bed at her place.
"Eventually, Tony bought a car for her. It was a new Plymouth Fury. It wasn't a showy car.
"When Nancy found out what was going on, things got a little tough. Sheryl had stopped by the Gold Rush to see Tony. She was wearing a diamond studded S necklace that Tony had given her, and when Nancy came in and saw Sheryl wearing the S necklace. Nancy went wild and she reached for it.
"I got there just at that time and I found the two of them wrestling on the floor. Sheryl managed to hold on to her S. Tony came out of the back room and broke up the fight so Sheryl and I could get away.
"In the end, when it was over between Tony and Sheryl, he wouldn't return her calls. Sheryl was really crazy about him, but maybe she pushed too hard. He was having a lot of problems with the cops when they broke up, and maybe he was trying to spare her.
"His brother John used to tell her not to try and reach him. 'Don't call him,' he'd say. 'Spare yourself.' But she'd see him making his court appearances on TV and she saw that he was gaining weight and didn't look good, and she used to blame Nancy for not taking care of him. Sheryl used to make sure he ate the right food, and her refrigerator was always filled with fruits and salad and the kinds of healthy food that were good for people with heart problems.
"After she and Tony broke up she got a job doing cocktails at night. Tony wasn't happy about it. But she had grown accustomed to his lifestyle. She needed the money. Then she got into dealing blackjack. She worked in the old MGM, at Rally's. She had a prime shift and made excellent money. She started meeting high rollers. She wised up. She learned and started looking around for another rock to stand on."
One part of the "Casino" non-fiction book that is interesting is the description of Sheryl's effect on hard-bitten mob muscleman Tony Spilotro:
He was a gentleman always. Very quiet. Very reserved. I would see him mad sometimes, but I never once heard him curse or use bad language.This is NOT the way that Tony acted most of the time, according to the book. If you have seen "Casino" the movie, you know that "never once heard him curse or use bad language" is NOT how Joe Pesci portrays the character of Tony Spilotro (i.e., Nicky Santoro). Joe Pesci's character may be the foulest-mouthed character in the movie, and may be one of the foulest-mouthed characters Joe Pesci has played in any movie (which is saying something). It's nice to think that his Mormon girlfriend didn't put up with that kind of language.
Another interesting passage indicates that Sheryl's background as a Latter-day Saint (or perhaps her training as a nurse) had a healthful effect on Tony's life, as she encouraged him to eat according to the Word of Wisdom:
Sheryl used to make sure he ate the right food, and her refrigerator was always filled with fruits and salad and the kinds of healthy food that were good for people with heart problems.