Climactic scenes in the movie ‘Uncut Gems’ were filmed at Mohegan Sun

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As the acclaimed movie “Uncut Gems” revs toward its nerve-jangling finale, Adam Sandler’s character, Howard Ratner, gives his mistress Julia a bag of cash and tells her to wager on a Celtics game. It’s a pivotal point in the drama, when Ratner thinks he can win big and pay off past debts. Julia takes the money and hops in a helicopter that brings her to … Mohegan Sun.

Not only do the characters mention Mohegan Sun by name in “Uncut Gems,” but the scenes set at the Sun were, in fact, filmed there.

So movie viewers see Julia, played by newcomer Julia Fox, land at the Sun, race through the casino, place the bet, and hang out in a hotel suite waiting as the basketball game is played. Is that Race Book? Yes. Doesn’t that look like the Wolf Den flashing by in the background? Indeed.

“Uncut Gems” shot at Mohegan Sun over the course of a half-dozen days, in November 2018 and April 2019. If you were at the casino at the time, don’t expect to materialize in the movie’s background; the Sun’s security team redirected guests away from areas where filming was taking place.

George Galinsky, senior vice president of marketing communications at Mohegan Sun, says of the Sun’s appearance in the film, “One of the things I loved the most was when they shot our hotel tower in the background as the helicopter was landing at our helipad.”

As for what he liked about that shot, he says, “It’s just the exposure for the Mohegan Sun brand. There are so many people that have heard of us that haven’t made the trip yet. This is kind of almost like a third-party endorsement. When you see something like that, it might tip you over the edge in terms of your interest in making the trip.”

In addition to the scenes filmed onsite, “Uncut Gems” features a few seconds earlier in the story of a Mohegan Sun commercial on a TV at Sandler’s character’s house. 

A lauded Sandler performance

In the motion picture from brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, Sandler portrays a tightly wound jeweler who is making a mess of his life and who is obsessed with gambling. The hard-charging, wildly self-absorbed character is Sandler playing against type, and it’s a performance that has earned him the best reviews of his career. In fact, he was often discussed as a possible best-actor Oscar nominee, but when the Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday, neither he nor “Uncut Gems” earned any nods.

That, though, doesn’t take away from the accolades that the movie and the actor have received.

Sandler wasn’t in any of the scenes filmed at Mohegan Sun, but he is plenty familiar with the venue. He has brought his standup comedy to the Arena before and will again for a show on March 20.

From Affleck to ‘The Bachelorette’ 

A location scout from a production company originally contacted Mohegan Sun about “Uncut Gems.”

“I believe we were probably on their radar because of previous filmings here for TV and film,” Galinsky says. “And every time we get an opportunity like this, we try to over-deliver so hopefully our reputation is preceding us.”

Indeed, other productions that have shot at Mohegan Sun in the past have included the Ben Affleck movie “The Town,” released in 2010, and “Passionada” in 2002, along with TV series “Sneaky Pete” on Amazon; “Real Housewives of New York City” on Bravo; “Undercover Boss” on CBS; and “The Bachelorette” on ABC.

The process usually starts with a production company asking a lot of questions of Sun officials.

“They’ll give you a little bit of a scenario of what the film is about, tell you what in general they want to shoot, they will start asking about different potential dates,” Galinsky says.

For instance, they might want to know if one of the Sun’s premier hotels suites would be available between two specific dates, or whether they could shoot in the Arena on a certain day.

Mohegan Sun gets the answers together as quickly as possible.

Mohegan Sun assists the film or TV crew out in a variety of ways, from helping them map out things in advance to being with them while they are on site.

“We’re getting used to this — we’re ready for these folks at this point,” Galinsky says.

He also says that, “because the brand exposure is national and even international, not to mention evergreen, we work with a company called Primal NY to assess these opportunities. Primal evaluates the track record of the inquiring location scouts and the potential popularity of each project.”

Gambling in ‘Gems’

“Uncut Gems” doesn’t paint a particularly flattering portrait of gambling in the form of Sandler’s compulsive character.

But Galinsky notes that the movie certainly isn’t unflattering to Mohegan Sun.

And, he says, “It was transparent about the chaos that can be caused with problem gambling.” He says that, based on the general story outline provided, he knew there “was a little bit of risk there,” but he also realized the movie could “potentially bring more awareness to the negative outcomes of hardcore risk-taking and things like that.”

A note about reality versus the plot in “Uncut Gems”: you can’t place sports bets at Mohegan Sun, although that could change in the future. 

Hope for more in the future

Galinsky notes that, although they didn’t film at the site, TV shows like “Billions,” “Castle” and “Law & Order” have mentioned Mohegan Sun. Those references, he says, are “a testament to the awareness the advertising team here has created over the years. From a business standpoint, it is fantastic, as it helps remind viewers (potential visitors) that folks love us and are coming to Mohegan Sun to celebrate life’s occasions, or just enjoy their free time.”

Still, having a movie or TV show actually film at the Sun is a major event.

“It’s exciting for our employees. It’s exciting, I think, for the community when these types of things happen. Would love to just have more and more of them,” Galinsky says.

 

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