Ray Liotta made his mark as an actor with his portrayal of Henry Hill in the Martin Scorsese-directed 1990 gangster film, “Goodfellas”, and the impact of that role will live on forever. Following Liotta’s death at age 67 in late May, Scorsese penned an emotional letter for The Guardian where he reminisced about being on set with the actor and shared his regret for not working with him again following “Goodfellas”.
“We had many plans to work together again but the timing was always off, or the project wasn’t quite right,” Scorsese wrote. “I regret that now.”
The 79-year-old award-winning director went on to share that when he watched Liotta as Jay Marotta in the 2019 movie “Marriage Story”, his desire to work with him again was stronger than ever.
“He’s genuinely scary in the role, which is precisely why he’s so funny — I remember feeling that I wanted to work with him again at this point in his life, to explore the gravity in his presence, so different from the young, sprightly actor he was when I met him,” Scorsese explained.
“I wish I’d had the chance to see him just once more, too — to tell him just how much the work we did together meant to me,” Scorsese added. “But maybe he knew that. I hope so.”
In his letter, Scorsese recalled how fearless Liotta was as a young, newbie actor on the set of “Goodfellas”.
“He never missed a beat. It felt like we’d worked together for years,” Scorsese said.
Scorsese later shared an emotional story about the day Liotta found out his mother was dying while he was headed to film an important scene.
“I will never forget the day we shot the scene where Henry, Tommy (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy (Robert De Niro) bring their tribute money from the Air France heist to Paulie, played by Paul Sorvino. When they were setting up, I got word that Ray had just gotten a call with bad news. I went right to his trailer and found him completely distraught. His mother was dying. I remember that he kept saying: ‘She adopted me and raised me, she’s the sweetest woman there is – why does she have this terrible cancer? Why?'” Scorsese wrote.
“I told him that he had to go to be with her, but he was adamant: he wanted to do the scene before he left,” Scorsese continued. “We walked to the set together, everyone was told what was happening, and something extraordinary happened when we rolled. The scene was all about the euphoria of the characters after making their first big score, and everyone came together in an emotional bond around Ray: as everyone was laughing and celebrating, they were mourning with him at the same time. Laughter and tears, tears and laughter … they were one and the same. Ray did the scene so beautifully, and then he left to be with his beloved mother. It was a rare experience.”
This isn’t the first time Scorsese has opened up about the life and death of Liotta. Following news of his passing, Scorsese released a statement to ET, which read, “I’m absolutely shocked and devastated by the sudden, unexpected death of Ray Liotta.”
“He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor,” Scorsese added. “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. 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.”
Liotta died on May 26, 2022. He was 67.
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