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(Credit: Press / HBO)

Film

The reason why Ray Liotta turned down 'The Sopranos' role

@Russellisation

Tributes have been rolling in for the late Goodfellas star Ray Liotta, with the likes of Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese paying their respects to one of the most influential actors of gangster cinema. 

Appearing in the 1990 movie with De Niro, Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco, Liotta helped to create one of the finest movies of the decade, playing the lead character of Henry Hill, in Scorsese’s film that follows life in the mafia mob for a young man who quickly discovers the life isn’t all glitz and glamour. Inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Scorsese’s film had a significant hand in transforming the American gangster genre, reviving the taste for such films after a period of significant stagnation in the 1980s and early ‘90s. 

Despite shining as the star of the iconic movie, Liotta strangely never worked with Scorsese ever again, with the director preferring the collaboration of Robert De Niro, who has worked with the filmmaker on a total of nine different projects, with the imminent release of Killers of the Flower Moon ready to take that figure into double digits.

‘Goodfellas’ director Martin Scorsese pays tribute to Ray Liotta

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Asked why he never appeared in another film by the iconic director, Liotta spoke to The Guardian in September 2021 and too questioned the lack of collaboration. “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him,” the actor simply replied, highlighting that he would “love” to work with the director once more.

This wasn’t for a lack of trying from Scorsese, however, with the director offering him the role of Sgt. Dignam in the 2006 movie The Departed starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. Passing on the movie because he was busy with another project at the time, the role eventually went to Mark Wahlberg who later received an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

Clearly a picky character, Liotta also turned down a chance to appear in the influential HBO gangster series The Sopranos, with the show’s creator David Chase reaching out to the star in the hopes he would take a role in the series. Offered the role of Ralphie, who was eventually played by the excellent Joe Pantoliano in season three, Liotta told The Guardian that he only turned down The Sopranos role as, “I didn’t want to do another mafia thing, and I was shooting Hannibal. It just didn’t feel right at the time”. 

Clearly regretting his decision to some extent, Liotta was grateful that he was able to work on the Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark several years later, appearing alongside James Gandolfini’s son, Michael. Quickly flying to New York when he heard about the new film, Liotta asked Chase if he could have a part, eager to make up for the mistake he made many years ago. 

When asked why he was so keen to take the role Liotta told the publication, “I’m really not sure what made me so determined…But I was and luckily it all worked out”. Playing twin brothers Dick Moltisanti and Sally Moltisanti in the prequel, you could say that it was finally worth the wait for Liotta to come onboard.