Celebrity Portrait

Getting Lucky in Vegas


Photography courtesy of Michael Muller

By Shep Morgan


Don Cheadle has been a familiar presence on the Sin City scene since he first won a Golden Globe® in 1999 for his acclaimed performance as Sammy Davis, Jr., in HBO’s The Rat Pack. He was part of the star-loaded entourage with George Clooney and Brad Pitt that robbed the Strip blind in the hugely popular Ocean’s trilogy. And he recently returned to make Vegas a player in his Showtime hit, House of Lies, which earned him a second Golden Globe® as cutthroat management consultant Marty Kaan.

"Maybe there’s a little Vegas luck that came with winning twice," he says. "Filming House of Lies in places like Caesars Palace, Bally’s and Planet Hollywood was a great opportunity to showcase a town we love. When we filmed in the casinos people didn’t stop gambling. That was a bit of a challenge, but a lot of them were fans of the show."

Cheadle didn’t hesitate to take it to the limit in the no-holds-barred, series and it’s a gamble that’s paid off. "I’ve stretched my image, but that’s what you expect on cable—adult themes pushing the envelope," he says. "The audience is getting to live things vicariously through characters doing things that most of them would never do. That definitely includes me." Playing the slick and über-intense Marty, who’ll stop at nothing to win, isn’t the biggest stretch for Cheadle in House of Lies. It’s those nude scenes, of which he’s had more than his share. "I’m not comfortable taking my clothes off in front of a bunch of people," he says.


Cheadle, however, wasn’t into long nights on the Strip like the hard-partying Marty. "We just hung around at Caesars because there are so many great places to eat," he says. "I think we did every restaurant there. I especially like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and The Palm has great steaks. We worked such long hours that at the end of the day we just didn’t feel like doing the town."

Cheadle insists that even when he and his Ocean’s costars were in Sin City for weeks at a time they behaved themselves. "It was partly out of fear," he says. "None of us believe that ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,’ not with all the cell-phone cameras and social media. When I was there with Clooney and Pitt, no one really did anything except maybe go to an occasional club. I think we had some of our best times playing basketball between scenes."

But he does find time to enjoy Vegas, whether it’s holding his own in a celebrity golf tournament like Michael Jordan’s Celebrity Invitational, being ringside at a fight or just having fun with his family taking in the shows. It’s the draw of the poker tables which Cheadle admits he finds hardest to resist.

“I guess you could say I’m a big poker fan,” he says. “But I’m not laying down big bucks. I don’t ever bet an amount of money that’s going to hurt the bottom line. I’ve got two kids to get through college, so I just enjoy the game and I would never risk everything.”

Cheadle has played with a lot of famous faces, but the one he won’t forget is Clooney. “He’s the most unlucky gambler in the world and the worst card player,” he says with a laugh. “My wife, on the other hand, can hold her own. She takes it more seriously than I do and even went to poker camp. A date night for us might be dinner and then heading for a casino.”

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