About The Production
Two weeks prior to filming, the five actors who play the M.I.T. team of card counters spent time with card consultant Kyle Morris to learn how to play the game. Morris, who lives in Las Vegas and consults for films, worked closely with the cast during filming and appears as a blackjack dealer in one scene.
Regarding learning the game, he offers, "The cast really surprised me. A lot of them knew absolutely nothing about blackjack but they knew quite a bit about acting. It was more important to teach them how to look and act like a blackjack player."
Jim Sturgess admits, "I had never played blackjack before in my life. Kyle taught us basic strategies-how to hold yourself at a table, how to do the signals-just to make us looked relaxed at a blackjack table."
Jacob Pitts explains, "Last time I played blackjack I was twelve years old. Kyle taught us basic strategies and all the signals, but he also showed us techniques for moving chips and manipulating them - the kind of moves that you pick up when you spend a lot of time in casinos."
The one person who didn't pick up the chip tricks is Jim Sturgess. "I asked Jeff Ma about it and he said, 'No, I never did those kinds of tricks. I was the big player - if I was doing chip tricks, they would have sniffed me out,'" he remembers.
Liza Lapira says, "Before being in this movie, I never thought playing blackjack was fun. But thanks to 'research,' we got to go to a lot of cool places. It didn't feel like we were working!"
Kate Bosworth laughs, "The research we had to do on this film was to learn how to play blackjack with real blackjack players in Vegas. How tough is that? I've been to Vegas and have gambled a bit, but now I feel like I somewhat know what I'm doing."
Morris reveals, "A couple of the cast took it even further. Aaron and Liza practiced their card counting. A couple of times I'd spread the cards out and Liza would tell me what the count was and she would be right!"
Lapira isn't so sure in her skills. "I got Beat the Dealer, the famous book by Edward O. Thorp, and tried to count cards. I'm sure I looked like a big freak in the Santa Monica Coffee Bean, counting to myself."
Morris says that the cast did have some success at the tables. "I know some of the people in the cast had some big wins while we were in Vegas and chalked it all up to research," he says. "Hopefully, later on, they won't blame their losses on me."
Once filming got underway, it was important to the filmmakers to shoot in real casinos whenever possible. Initially, the filmmakers were concerned that Vegas honchos would not want to cooperate in the filming of a story that shows them being taken by card-counters. "What we soon found out is that the casinos actually liked the story, because it makes people think they can beat the system, and do it easily. That helps bring the people into the casinos," says Brunetti.
When filming began in Las Vegas, one of Luketic's challenges was to capture the chaos of Sin City. "You can never completely shut down a casino," says Luketic, "but we were able to get a table or two or a small section. We'd be filming at one table, orchestrating a complicated camera move, and at the next would be a bunch of frat boys having a great time. The casinos were great partners and helped us tremendously - I'm very proud of what came out of our two weeks in Vegas."
Capturing the complicated tracking shots between tables and doing it in a highly stylish, sophisticated, brightly colored way was Academy Award®-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter, ASC. "Vegas never closes - the casinos have business 24/7. The key challenge was to shoot our scenes without interrupting the business going on around us. It was exciting."
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