When the passing of Ray Liotta was announced, fans started to list the roles that they would remember him most. And by a large margin, the film that was most discussed was “Goodfellas,” the crime film by the legendary Martin Scorsese. Liotta’s role as Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” will likely go down as his finest work, and in a new essay written about the actor, Scorsese explained why he was perfect for the role.
Martin Scorsese wrote a beautiful new piece about Ray Liotta for The Guardian, explaining how the two came to work together on “Goodfellas.” You may think this was an obvious choice, as Liotta fully embodied the role of Hill in the crime film. However, it wasn’t so easy, with Scorsese and Liotta having to convince producer Irwin Winkler that the actor was right for the job. Of course, Liotta was convincing and the actor was hired for the role.
READ MORE: Martin Scorsese Foundation Launches Free Virtual Screening Room For Film Restorations
But, according to Scorsese, the real magic was seen on the set of “Goodfellas.”
“The word ‘fearless’ is used quite often to describe actors, and with good reason: actors need to be fearless,” Scorsese explained. “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.”
As we all know, “Goodfellas” is often discussed as one of the greatest crime films of all time and one of Scorsese’s finest achievements. However, the filmmaker didn’t get the chance to reunite with Liotta in the years after. As the filmmaker explained, there were numerous instances where it almost happened, but it never quite worked out.
READ MORE: Scorsese & De Niro Recreated A Famous ‘Goodfellas’ Scene To Test ‘The Irishman’ De-Aging Tech
“We had many plans to work together again but the timing was always off, or the project wasn’t quite right. I regret that now,” said Scorsese. “When I watched Ray as the divorce lawyer in ‘Marriage Story’ – he’s genuinely scary in the role, which is precisely why he’s so funny – I remember feeling that I wanted to work with him again at this point in his life, to explore the gravity in his presence, so different from the young, sprightly actor he was when I met him.”
Sadly, we’ll never get the opportunity to see what Liotta and Scorsese could have done together years after “Goodfellas.” But at least we’ll always have that Henry Hill role to look back on to see just how “fearless” Liotta was at the time.