When a legendary actor passes, they leave behind not just a hole in the lives of their loved ones, but also their adoring fans. The only solace that can come from the passing of a beloved actor is the body of work they produced, which ensures their legacy will endure. Following Ray Liotta’s tragic passing, his greatest movie, GoodFellas is racing up the streaming charts, charting in the top three on HBO.
At the age of 67, Ray Liotta suddenly passed away last week whilst shooting a movie in the Dominican Republic. The news sent shockwaves through the Hollywood community and the likes of Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro joined Liotta’s fiance in paying tribute to the late, great actor. It is incredibly apt that both Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro led the way in paying tribute to Ray Liotta as the trio combined to bring the incredible GoodFellas to life. The gangster epic, which is now getting a new lease of life on streaming following Liotta’s passing, was released in 1990 and sees Liotta star as gangster Henry Hill. Throughout the movie, director Scorcese gives the viewer the chance to see how Hill’s life as part of the mob affects his relationships with his wife Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) and his partners in crime Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci).
It is fair to say that GoodFellas is the defining movie of Ray Liotta’s glittering career. The film is regarded as a classic, not only is it a high-water mark for all other gangster movies to compare to, but it is also an Oscar winner. Liotta’s co-star Joe Pesci picked up the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito in the film at the 1991 Academy Awards. GoodFellas was also nominated for a further five awards on Hollywood’s biggest night of the year. Beyond the Oscars, GoodFellas enjoyed a successful awards season run, the highlight being its five BAFTA wins, which included Best Film. It is no wonder that GoodFellas endured such success on the awards circuit, as Rotten Tomatoes shows the film has an overall critics score of 96%, meaning that the verdict is almost unanimous that the gangster epic is truly an epic. This is a sentiment echoed by audiences as well, the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes is at 97% based on over a quarter of a million ratings. GoodFellas is undoubtedly the reason Ray Liotta became a household name.
Martin Scorcese remembers how Ray Liotta made an impact on GoodFellas. GoodFellas came early on in Liotta’s career, prior to his casting as Henry Hill, Ray Liotta had transitioned from the world of television to film, first starring in Something Wild in 1986 and Field of Dreams in 1989. It was the former film that caught Scorcese’s attention, the legendary Director wrote in The Guardian. Scorcese goes on to say how Liotta approached his role by being ‘fearless’ and entered a production where many members had worked together before (De Niro being a frequent Scorcese collaborator) and made it seem as if: “we’d worked together for years.” Ray Liotta’s incredible performance is made even more amazing as Scorcese recalls how Liotta’s Mother was going through the final stages of a losing battle with cancer whilst GoodFellas was in production.
Given how successful GoodFellas became and Martin Scorcese’s fondness of Ray Liotta and his incredible Henry Hill portrayal, it is surprising that the director and actor never worked together again. The director had this to say on failed reunions in the workspace between himself and Liotta: “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.” Despite never working with Scorsese again, Ray Liotta soldiered on after GoodFellas to constantly produce new roles in countless projects. Liotta’s career was still going strong even in recent years, as the veteran actor put in brilliant performances in the likes of Marriage Story and the Many Saints of Newark. Fans of Modern Family will also remember fondly that Liotta isn’t afraid to make a comical cameo appearance.
It would be no surprise to see GoodFellas continue to see success in HBO’s streaming charts. Given the freshness of the tragedy of the actor’s passing. In re-watching his classic work, fans will be reminded of the extraordinary power Liotta brought to the big screen and will be left wondering what amazing future works, we have all sadly missed out on.