Search icon

Movies & TV

27th Feb 2023

Martin Scorsese describes moment he realised Ray Liotta was perfect for Goodfellas role

Stephen Porzio


“That was when I knew he would be Henry Hill.”

Following his untimely passing last year at the age of 67, legendary actor Ray Liotta has received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The star is to honour Liotta’s 50 years of work in movies and TV, which included roles in major films like Something Wild, Field of Dreams, Unlawful Entry, Cop Land, Hannibal, Narc, Killing Them Softly, The Place Beyond the Pines, Marriage Story, The Many Saints of Newark and the currently in cinemas Cocaine Bear.

However, by far Liotta’s most enduring performance onscreen was that of mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s gangster movie classic Goodfellas. Speaking to Variety, the director opened up about the moment he realised Liotta was perfect for the role.

“We were thinking about just a few actors to play Henry Hill, and Ray was one of them,” Scorsese told the outlet.

“I had one concern. I knew that he could handle a role like the one he had in Something Wild, but here he would have to carry the whole picture. He had to look like he could have come out of that world, he had to have a certain innocence, he had to have authority, but most of all he needed charm as a counterweight to the violence and the horrifying behavior.

I loved Ray’s work, we got along very well whenever we met and I knew we could work together. But still, I wondered and then, something clicked into place.”

The moment took place at the prestigious Venice Film Festival when Scorsese was at the event to promote his movie The Last Temptation of Christ and Liotta was attending with his film Dominick and Eugene.

Having received death threats over The Last Temptation of Christ’s controversial depiction of Jesus Christ, Scorsese was accompanied at the festival by a team of security guards.

“I was staying at the Excelsior Hotel. I was crossing the lobby to do an interview and I saw Ray waving to me on the other side of the room,” the director explained.

“He headed toward me to say hello and he was confronted by a phalanx of security and he handled it, perfectly… [Ray] reacted very quietly, very calmly, politely.

“He allowed them to observe their protocols and he defused the situation. He looked at me. I looked at him. We signaled to each other that we would talk at a more convenient moment and we went our separate ways.

“I took a little more time to think about it, but I realise now that I was just going through the motions. That was when I knew he would be Henry Hill.”

Goodfellas was the only time Liotta and Scorsese joined forces, though the director said after the actor’s death that he wished that they had worked together again.

Meanwhile, at the Hollywood Walk of Fame event on Friday for Liotta, Taron Egerton also paid tribute to him – with the two having shared the screen in the Apple TV+ crime thriller series Black Bird.

Related articles:

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge