Lee Strasberg’s classic portrayal of Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II was actually based on real life gangster Meyer Lansky. Like Roth, Lansky was a famous figure in the Jewish underworld. Unlike Roth, Lansky died of lung cancer, not “lead poisoning.”
Al Capone has been depicted in numerous films. But nostalgia forced me to choose Robert De Niro‘s performance in The Untouchables. While it might not be the most realistic film, it certainly is a lot of fun, and that says a lot given the subject matter.
While we’re on the subject of De Niro, his role in Casino was based on real life mafia bookie Frank Rosenthal. Most of what was depicted in the film really happened, including the tragic death of Rosenthal’s wife, his bizarre stint as a talk-show host, and his near fatal involvement in a car bombing.
Unfortunately, most of what was depicted involving Joe Pesci‘s character in Casino was also accurate, including the brutal beating and corn-field burial he received. The character of Nicky Santoro was based on Anthony Spilotro, a member of The Chicago Outfit.