Ray Liotta is best known for his starring turn in Goodfellas, and his untimely death led director Martin Scorsese to state he was “absolutely shocked and devastated by the sudden, unexpected death”.
The film was considered something of a return to form for the director, as many of his projects in the 1980s held a more cerebral nature. Goodfellas brought Scorsese back to the world of the mobster, and Liotta was his choice to play the lead. “He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor,” Scorsese said in a statement.
Adding: “Playing Henry Hill in Goodfellas was a tall order, because the character had so many different facets, so many complicated layers, and Ray was in almost every scene of a long, tough shoot.” Scorsese reiterated that he felt “amazed” by Liotta’s commitment, and said he’s proud of their work together.
Robert De Niro‘s statement, meanwhile, was more compact: “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too way young to have left us,” he said. De Niro was given top billing for the film, although Liotta had more screentime. In a sense, the film presented a harder-edged look at the world of the mafia compared to the more romanticised adventures Francis Ford Coppola brought to the screen with The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.
Lorraine Braco worked with Liotta on Goodfellas, and claimed that no matter where she travels to, someone comes up to inform her that it’s their favourite film. She claimed that working with Liotta was the best part of working on the film.
Although Liotta is best known for playing Henry Hill, his resume includes such esoteric and far-reaching work as Hannibal – the darker, more unhinged sequel to The Silence of The Lambs – and the sombre Marriage Story, which reflected the harrowing effects of divorce through a series of blistering monologues. Liotta also made his mark on more family-oriented fodder, not least in Bee Movie, where he appeared as a fictionalised version of himself.
Ray Liotta died in his sleep on May 26th in the Dominican Republic. He was 67 years old.