The D.E.A.L.: Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging
by Jeanne Brei
I usually write about historical hotels in each featured city but Las Vegas is so young that the first Strip hotel (the El Dorado) wasn’t built until 1941 and Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo, which redefined the Las Vegas vibe, didn’t open until 1946—hardly historical! And Las Vegas usually implodes any hotel that gets to 20 years old (or renovates and modernizes it).
Bugsy’s efforts to take Las Vegas from a whistlestop RR stop to a glamorous gambling destination brought Hollywood to Las Vegas—and we’ve been the backdrop for more than 100 feature films since. So, let’s do a “backlot” tour—since I’ve worked as an extra on nearly every movie that’s shot here since 1995 (too late for Casino which filmed in 1994 and was shot primarily at the Riviera, with the nearby Landmark Hotel’s entrance replicating the fictional Tangiers). Both of those hotels had their implosions used in other movies. We were shooting Mars Attacks at the Stardust which used the Landmark implosion in 1995 as part of the Martians attack and we were shooting Jason Bourne at the Aria when they used the Riviera’s implosion in 2016. When we were shooting Con Air, they built the plane crash into the Sands Hotel’s implosion in November 1996. Interestingly, we were shooting Ocean’s Eleven in the spring of 2001, and in one scene we were standing on the rooftop of the Monte Carlo Hotel (now the Park MGM) and George Clooney, Matt Damon and the cast were “blowing up” the New York-New York Hotel next door. Tragically, 9/11 happened later that year and the producers deleted the entire subplot out of respect for the city of New York. Most of Ocean’s Eleven was filmed at the Bellagio as was Ocean’s 13.
Caesars Palace has been the site of several movies including The Hangover (pictured right), with scenes in the (currently being renovated) lobby, the pool, roof and guest rooms. Rain Man (the Emperors Suite has been nicknamed the Rain Man Suite), Dreamgirls, Intolerable Cruelty and Iron Man were partly shot here too. In Think Like a Man Too, actor Kevin Hart dances in his underwear and socks, sliding across the marble floor of the opulent Constantine villa at Caesars Palace. And for several years, it seemed as if every television magic special (one of my favorites filmed in a high roller suite that was amazing) and even ABC’s Viva Las Vegas night where members of the casts of Coach, Drew Carey, Ellen and Grace Under Fire all did crossover spots in each other’s shows as they all visited Las Vegas and filmed at Caesars Palace in February 1997.
The Venetian is featured in the 2001 comedy Rat Race and I’m in several scenes, standing in the hotel registration line, watching Mr. Bean careen through the lobby hallway and watching Gloria Allred offer her services at the base of an escalator. One of the hotel’s suites is also used in the Sandra Bullock film Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.
Circus Circus is mentioned in Hunter S. Thompson’s book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but when it came to making the movie version the casino owners refused permission. So, the producers built their own merry-go-round bar (the real one’s sadly no longer there). But Circus Circus is seen on screen in Diamonds are Forever (which also shot at the Hilton before my time) and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
We also shot scenes for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the Plaza Hotel downtown, the now-imploded Stardust and the dry lake bed in Jean, Nevada. Vegas Vacation filmed at The Mirage (I’m sitting with Beverly D’Angelo as Siegfried & Roy turn Chevy Chase into a tiger) and the Golden Nugget with scenes at the Hoover Dam, Casa de Shenandoah, Neon Museum, and the MGM Grand. Fools Rush In also filmed all over town, including Red Rock, Hoover Dam and more—you’ll see me dancing in Matthew Perry’s Las Vegas nightclub opening.
Before my time, The Tropicana was featured as Michael Corleone’s casino in the first Godfather film (though it was renamed the Tropigala to avoid any legal issues. And Viva Las Vegas was filmed downtown at the Golden Nugget (Elvis’ character was a waiter there) and the Sahara parking lot.
This story originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 57. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_sept-oct_2021