If you’ve ever played in online casino Australia, then you’ll no doubt agree that the Ocean’s 11 movies – the 1950 original and the 2001 franchise kick-starting flick that it inspired – are two of the most entertaining casino-themed films ever made. And while the entertainment value derived from each is the same, the films themselves (and their production histories) couldn’t be more different.
“Forget the movie…let’s pull the job!” Those were the typically upfront words muttered by singer, actor and monolithic pop cultural presence, Frank Sinatra, when he was told the plot for Ocean’s 11, the 1960 Las Vegas heist flick that went on to become one of the crooner’s most infamous big screen efforts. While his most accomplished performances can be found in From Here To Eternity and The Man With The Golden Arm, the best on-screen approximation of Sinatra’s inherent swagger is unquestionably on display in Ocean’s 11, in which he co-stars with his fellow entertainer buddies, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, collectively tagged The Rat Pack.
Though directed by Lewis Milestone, Sinatra really ran the show on Ocean’s 11. He basically used the shoot as an excuse to hang out in Las Vegas, booking The Rat Pack into two stage shows a day at The Sands Casino during filming. “I couldn’t wait to get to work,” Peter Lawford recalled in Nancy Sinatra’s book, Frank Sinatra, My Father. “Everybody was flowing on the same wavelength. We would do two shows a night, get to bed at 5:00am, get up again at seven or eight, and go to work on a movie. We’d come back, go to the steam room, get something to eat, and start all over again. They were taking bets that we’d all end up in a box.”
Hard partying Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack treated Ocean’s 11 with something bordering on disdain, improvising their way through scenes rather than learning their lines (or, alternatively, using cue cards to help them with their dialogue), and lording over a schedule that often required them to do as little as three hours’ work a day. Ocean’s Eleven might have been a movie, but for Frank Sinatra, it was really just one big party. The on-screen results, however, are undeniably fun and richly rewarding. The off-screen hijinks translate beautifully on-screen, and the relaxed performances and obvious camaraderie make Ocean’s 11 a real hoot.
If the director had little to no real say on the original Ocean’s 11, then things were certainly different on the 2001 remake, Ocean’s Eleven. Director Steven Soderbergh’s jazzy, too-cool-for-school comedy thriller finds ex-con George Clooney putting together a crew (made up of the likes of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle) to roll the three Las Vegas casinos owned by the man (Andy Garcia) who has stolen his ex-wife (Julia Roberts). Though boasting huge stars, the new Ocean’s Eleven was very much the work of a director in total control. “He’s sharp as a knife,” Brad Pitt has enthused of his director on Ocean’s Eleven, and its two sequels, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. “He’s pushing things forward. He’s an innovator, and that’s why I’d wanted to work with him for the longest time. He starts a scene in the conventional way and then he turns it on its head. He’s great. I have a love affair with all the directors I’ve worked with. This is a director’s medium. It’s the director who should be on the cover of magazines. They’re the most interesting people in the forum.”
Obviously a lot more so in 2001 than 1960…