How a Casino in Macau Landed Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio

Macau Casino Opening  - H 2015

Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt were among the other A-listers who hit the red carpet for the Hollywood-themed resort's grand opening.

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The red carpet rolled out for Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Brett Ratner, Mariah Carey and her billionaire boyfriend, James Packer, on Oct. 27 at the unveiling of a $3.2 billion Hollywood-themed casino resort called Studio City. But this one was located in the gambling metropolis of Macau.

Why did so many A-listers make the trek? De Niro and Brad Pitt were reportedly paid $13 million each to star in the Scorsese-directed $70 million, 15-minute promo The Audition, which was shot in New York and on the property backed by Macau-based Melco Crown CEO Lawrence Ho and Packer (Ratner's RatPac Entertainment partner).

Gary Goddard, whose Goddard Group handled planning and the exterior design in partnership with architecture firm Leigh & Orange, tells THR: "That [film] was a stroke of marketing genius by Mr. Packer and Mr. Ho. It got picked up around the world." 

As for Macau's Studio City, Goddard adds that it's great to see the project finally realized. "I like the fact that it’s epic and contemporary but with the art deco features; it harks back to the silver screen era," Goddard tells THR. "That works very well here. It’s iconic, but also iconic for Macau. Other properties like the Wynn and the Venetian are the same properties here that they are in Vegas. We didn’t want to repeat what’s already there."

Among the things that set the new resort apart, Goddard notes that the project features a figure-eight Ferris wheel embedded into the architecture as well as Hollywood-type elements reminiscent of Gotham City or Metropolis. In addition, Warner Bros. struck a separate deal for attractions including a Batman feature. "[The Ferris wheel] is a continually moving element that symbolizes moving pictures. And the figure eight in the middle of the building is the number for good fortune," says Goddard. "I’ve always had one foot in the movie industry, therefore my sense of design is highly theatrical."

Goddard will apply those skills to his next project — a partnership with Cirque du Soleil to create resorts around the world based on the popular shows. The first will be based in Puerto Vallarta with ground-breaking scheduled for 2019.