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Real-life gangster played a murderer based on himself in a Martin Scorsese movie

Real-life gangster played a murderer based on himself in a Martin Scorsese movie

Frank Cullotta's Casino character was loosely based on his own experiences

A convicted criminal ended up being Martin Scorsese's advisor in one of his movies, and even landed a role in the film.

Frank Cullotta was an infamous gangster, best known for being a member of Chicago Outfit and the Hole in the Wall Gang burglary ring.

He was a burglar and hitman, and his crimes eventually landed him behind bars.

Frank Cullotta was a former Las Vegas mobster. (djvlad/YouTube)
Frank Cullotta was a former Las Vegas mobster. (djvlad/YouTube)

But in 1982, when Cullotta feared that a contract had been taken out on his life by his once-best friend and mobster associate Tony Spilotro, he decided to cooperate with the authorities and Spilotro went on to be indicted.

Spilotro went on to be acquitted, however, so Cullotta was placed into a Witness Protection Program and lived under a fake name for several years.

It wasn't until he felt safe that he reemerged under his birth-given name again.

Turning away from crime, Cullotta went on to help Nicholas Pileggi with his 1995 book, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.

The non-fiction book looked at Las Vegas' mobsters, including Tony Spilotro.

The book went on to be adapted into a film by award-winning director Martin Scorsese, which Cullotta also advised on.

Casino was directed by Martin Scorsese. (Universal Pictures)
Casino was directed by Martin Scorsese. (Universal Pictures)

The movie follows two best friends who are 'competing for a gambling empire and a fast-living, fast-loving socialite' in Sin City.

Cullotta inspired the character Frank Marino (played by Frank Vincent), while Nicky Santoro (played by Joe Pesci) was based on Spilotro.

While he didn't get a leading role, Cullotta did bag himself a small part in the movie as hitman Curly. During his mobster career, Cullotta had also been a hitman.

Curly appears near the end of the film and puts two bullets in the back of Andy Stone’s head.

His Hollywood career didn't end there though as following the release of Casino, Cullotta also featured in several episodes of the AMC documentary series The Making of the Mob.

He created his own YouTube channel called Coffee with Cullotta too, where he boasted over 50,000 subscribers.

The reformed criminal died in August 2020 from complications from Covid-19 at the age of 81.

Before his death, Cullotta reflected on his criminal past and if he thought about it.

He told the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2015: "Honestly, it never wakes me up.

"If you do think about it, it’ll put you in the (expletive) nuthouse.

"When I do these tours, then everything pops up into my head; people want to know if it bothers me. Of course. But if I thought about it 24 hours a day, I’d wind up in my car with a gun in my mouth."

Featured Image Credit: NBC 5 / Universal Pictures

Topics: Crime, Las Vegas, Martin Scorsese, True crime, Film and TV