Legendary director Martin Scorsese writes a moving tribute to his Goodfellas lead, the late Ray Liotta. Adapted from Nicholas Pileggi’s nonfiction book Wiseguy, Scorsese’s seminal gangster film follows the real-life story of Henry Hill Jr. (Liotta) as he rises through the ranks of the mob with his associates Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). Also starring Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino, Goodfellas is widely recognized as one of the best films in the gangster genre, often ranked right alongside Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. However, despite garnering overwhelming praise from critics at the time of its release, Goodfellas only scored one Academy Award, winning Best Supporting Actor for Pesci.
Having already become well-known for his performances in Something Wild, Dominick and Eugene, and Field of Dreams, Liotta became an international star for his portrayal of Henry Hill, which remains his best-known role. Indeed, following his performance in Scorsese’s gangster classic, Liotta went on to appear in a number of crime movies throughout his career, becoming well-associated with the genre. But he also proved himself to be a versatile actor, guest appearing in a range of sitcoms and even voicing a parody of himself in Bee Movie. Liotta passed away unexpectedly last month at the age of 67 while filming a new movie in the Dominican Republic, causing an outpouring of tributes from friends, collaborators, and fans.
Now, the director behind Liotta’s most acclaimed role issues a heartwarming tribute to the Goodfellas star. In an article for The Guardian, Scorsese discusses the process of casting Liotta as Henry Hill, and how the actor managed to convince producer Irwin Winkler that he was the man for the role. He also details Liotta’s approach to the character, stressing the confidence and talent he exuded on a set where he was “the new guy“:
The word “fearless” is used quite often to describe actors, and with good reason: actors need to be fearless. They have to jump in and just go, and they have to stumble and fail and risk appearing ridiculous as they’re finding their way into a role. That’s just part of the work. On Goodfellas, we were working improvisationally in most scenes, and many members of the team had known each other and worked together for years, including my mother and my father. Into that walked the new guy, Ray Liotta, and he never missed a beat. It felt like we’d worked together for years.
Read Scorsese’s full tribute to Liotta here
The director’s heartfelt article on his relationship with the actor is the latest in a string of poignant Liotta celebrity tributes shared following his sudden death. Scorsese goes on to recount an instance in which the actor’s devotion and determination to the role shone through, where he insisted on shooting one of Hill’s most euphoric scenes despite having received some tragic family news just before filming. But the director also confesses his regret at having never worked with Liotta again following Goodfellas, even though the two had made plans to do so, as well as his wish to have met up with him one more time “to tell him just how much the work we did together meant to me.”
Although Scorsese only ever worked with Liotta once, the respect and love he has for his former leading man is palpable. His admiration of Liotta’s career after Goodfellas certainly illustrates how highly the director regards him. And given the length and timing of this tribute to him, it seems that Scorsese wanted to fully articulate his close relationship with the actor, rather than simply issue a statement on his passing. Although Liotta’s death was a sudden shock to many admirers of the classic 1990 gangster movie, Scorsese’s moving tribute to him will hopefully help provide some Goodfellas fans with a kind of bittersweet closure.
More: Goodfellas: Ray Liotta Used Real-Life Tragedy To Inspire Henry Hill’s Anger
Source: The Guardian
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