Martin Scorsese is Hollywood’s one of the most sought-after and revered directors. With Oscar-winning movies to his name, he has churned out masterpieces and elevated the art form of cinema to a whole other level. One of the better-known movies, Goodfellas, starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci came out in 1990. The biographical crime film went on to become one of the most influential mob movies. However, Scorsese reveals the magnitude of effort and battle that went into the production and filming of the movie. Even as the world mourns the loss of the talented Ray Liotta, Scorsese holds a vigil separate from the rest as he speaks of his memory of the late actor.
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Ray Liotta’s Usher Into GoodFellas
Ray Liotta’s passing in May 2022 at the age of 67 has come as a shock to most within and outside of Hollywood. The actor mostly specialized in realistically portraying psychopathic characters hidden beneath the facade of cultivated charm. It was this very property that earned Liotta the seat at Martin Scorsese’s table of famed and veteran actors as the new guy.
The director remembers meeting him in the lobby of a hotel sometime before he was cast in the movie. The situation which could have turned chaotic and disruptive at any given moment was handled with utter calm, quiet, and patience. Martin Scorsese reveals, “I saw him handle the situation with quiet authority and real elegance. Actually, that was just what the role needed. When I look back on it, I believe that was the moment when I knew I wanted Ray to play Henry Hill.”
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Scorsese had worked with actors who were familiar with the concept of what was required of them. They had all worked together and Scorsese was yet to see Liotta live in action. He recalls when the camera started rolling, most of the scenes were improvisational and Liotta just went with the punches. “It felt like we had worked together for years”, says the director.
Martin Scorsese Venerates Ray Liotta
“The guy never missed a beat”, Scorsese recalls. Even though Goodfellas presented insurmountable barriers to both the actor and the director, they trudged on and filmed every shot with diligence that could only be described as extraordinary.
Scorsese reveals the movie came at a low point in his career and it was a big production. He needed an actor for the part of the lead, Henry Hill, that would require a rare combination of qualities. “He needed to be dangerous. He needed to be disarming. He needed to be vulnerable. Within the context of the world we were dealing with, he had to be something close to an innocent, the guy who was always there, witnessing everything, along for the ride.” And ever since watching Liotta’s performance in Something Wild, he had an eye on the actor as his lead.
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The director shares a touching moment on set during filming. He recalls Ray Liotta receiving news about his dying mother and rushing to his trailer to find him utterly devastated. Although Scorsese wanted him to go to his mother, the actor wanted to finish the scene first.
“Something extraordinary happened when we rolled. The scene was all about the euphoria of the characters after making their first big score, and everyone came together in an emotional bond around Ray: as everyone was laughing and celebrating, they were mourning with him at the same time. Laughter and tears, tears and laughter … they were one and the same. Ray did the scene so beautifully, and then he left to be with his beloved mother. It was a rare experience.
According to Martin Scorsese, the experience left him wanting to work with the actor on more projects but the timing was always off. He remembers seeing him in Marriage Story and realizing how different he was from the young, sprightly actor he was when they first met. Scorsese wanted to “work with him again at this point in his life, to explore the gravity in his presence”, but unfortunately the extraordinary opportunity never came to pass.
Source: The Guardian