Ray Liotta used all the pain in the best way possible delivering one of his most epic performances for one of his biggest hits 'Goodfellas.'
At just 67-year-old, Ray Liotta passed away in his sleep in May 2022. But he will always be remembered and deeply respected for his spectacular performances in movies such as Land, Narc & Something Wild. What truly made him a star and garnered widespread appreciation was Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. In 2015, in an interview for Little White Lies, Actor Ray Liotta talked about the 25th anniversary of Goodfellas and shared stories from working on the film. It was in that interview that he shared the painful incident in his personal life that actually contributed to his exceptional performance in Goodfellas. Actors have time and again shared the intense effect that adapting to certain roles has on their personal lives. So it is only inevitable that when something intense happens in real life, it either finds its way into reel life as well, or actors channel them intentionally into their performances.
Reminiscing about the shoot days, he shared, “When I was doing Goodfellas, my mother was dying – and did die – from cancer in the middle of [filming]. I had to go across the street and p****l-whip a guy, and I just remember thinking about my mother. It really made me angry. I brought outside stuff in and personalized it there." Personalizing a role this way was quite a unique circumstance for Ray. "But it’s impossible to personalize [generally] because every character I’ve played is so far from who I am.” While it is heart-wrenching to imagine the tragedy that he had to go through while working on the film, he used all the pain in the best way possible delivering one of his most epic performances. The performance was a major milestone in his career, which also earned him a loyal fan following.
In an article released by GQ that cataloged Goodfellas' production at length, Martin Scorsese revealed why he hired Ray Liotta to star in the film. Since Martin Scorsese was so respected in the business by the time he made Goodfellas, most of the top actors wanted to work with him. In the end, Scorsese wound up casting Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in two of Goodfelllas' main roles. At the time, Ray hadn't played major roles, and starring him alongside some big names for a critical role was definitely a calculated move. "I'd seen Ray in Something Wild, Jonathan Demme's film; I really liked him. And then I met him. I was walking across the lobby of the hotel on the Lido that houses the Venice Film Festival, and I was there with The Last Temptation of Christ. I had a lot of bodyguards around me. Ray approached me in the lobby and the bodyguards moved toward him, and he had an interesting way of reacting, which was he held his ground but made them understand he was no threat. I liked his behavior at that moment, and I saw, Oh, he understands that kind of situation. That's something you wouldn't have to explain to him."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Grant Lamos IV