Thursday afternoon, the world was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Goodfellas icon Ray Liotta. There was an outpouring of love and grief from both fans and colleagues, none of whom could believe that the actor’s passing came so suddenly and at the relatively young age of 67.
Martin Scorsese, the legendary director behind Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and The Irishman, was among these colleagues and shared a heartfelt statement with People regarding the death of Ray Liotta. “I’m absolutely shocked and devastated by the sudden, unexpected death of Ray Liotta,” Scorsese said. “He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor.”
“Playing Henry Hill in Goodfellas was a tall order,” the director continued. “Because the character had so many different facets, so many complicated layers, and Ray was in almost every scene of a long, tough shoot. He absolutely amazed me, and I’ll always be proud of the work we did together on that picture. My heart goes out to his loved ones, and it aches for his loss, way too early.”
Ray Liotta’s Goodfellas co-stars, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, mourned the loss as well. “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too young to have left us,” De Niro told People. “God is a good fella, and so is Ray,” Joe Pesci said to Entertainment Weekly.
Late Actor Ray Liotta Once Recounted Being Cast in the Martin Scorsese Classic ‘Goodfellas’
Though he had 10 years of acting experience under his belt, Ray Liotta was still relatively unknown as an actor, and playing Henry Hill in the 1990 film Goodfellas was the role of a lifetime for any actor.
The pressure for the relatively young actor was enormous, but Ray Liotta pushed through and met with Martin Scorsese to “audition” for the part. With the legendary director, however, auditions were highly unusual. There were no scripts involved. He simply wanted to get a measure of Ray Liotta as a person.
“My agent set up a meeting with Marty, who’d seen me in Something Wild,” Liotta explained to Empire. “Every actor in town wanted that part. I was nervous, but you didn’t have to read for him. We just sat and talked.”
“Dominick And Eugene was at the Venice Film Festival,” he continued. “I was at the Excelsior Hotel looking down into the lobby, and there was this commotion. Turned out it was Marty. He was there with The Last Temptation Of Christ. And because of the controversy, he had bodyguards.”
“I didn’t know if I was still in the running for GoodFellas, but I’d sent him a VHS of Dominick And Eugene so I wanted to make a connection. I was running towards him shouting, ‘Hey, Marty!’ and his bodyguards grabbed me and shoved me away. I was like, ‘No, no. I’m sorry, I just wanted to say hi to Marty.’ He told me later that was the moment he decided to cast me.”
Ray Liotta went on to explain that his reaction to the bodyguards’ aggression is what earned him the role of Henry Hill. In Martin Scorsese’s eyes, his calm demeanor under pressure was the perfect fit for Henry.