Director finds way to beat odds while shooting in Sin City



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21 director Robert Luketic, left, arrives with the film’s stars at the premiere of the movie in Las Vegas.

It's a filmmaker'snightmare — shooting scenes in a host of Las Vegas casinos while the massive gambling houses are still open to the public.

This very scenario played out for director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) on the set of his latest movie 21, based on the true story of a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who used their mathematical prowess to beat the odds and walk away with millions of dollars in blackjack winnings from a bevy of casinos across the United States in the 1990s.

21, the screen adaptation of the novel Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich and based on his original 2002 article about the students in Wired magazine, follows a fictionalized group of math geniuses as they take millions from several Vegas casinos.

Luketic insisted on shooting in real casinos whenever possible and to his surprise, several Vegas hot spots such as Planet Hollywood, The Hard Rock and The Red Rock Resort all opened their doors to his crew.

Their open attitude only made the task marginally simpler for Luketic.

“We had to close down or silence entire banks of slot machines, it was the deal we made with the casinos,” the Australian director explains.

“They’re very noisy environments. Even though we were controlling entire areas, there was still a lot of ambient noise. It’s a very different place, the casino, when all of those noises aren’t happening. But there are still a lot of people. We couldn’t totally shut it down.”

Not only did Luketic have to deal with noise, curious gamblers and the plethora of other distractions that accompany a casino shoot, he also had an A-list cast led by Kevin Spacey (Fred Claus), Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Jim Sturgess (Across The Universe) and Laurence Fishburne (Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer) that was sure to draw attention.

As he points out, having Spacey (who also produced) on-set, did have its advantages — namely getting the right people on the phone at the right time.

“He’s like a Frank Sinatra type in Vegas,” Luketic says. “He can pick up the phone to Steve Wynn and say we need to shoot in your shopping mall.”

  • 21 opens in theatres next Friday.