Ray Liotta was so much more than Goodfellas

WWhen it came to Ray Liotta, his eyes were less the windows to the soul and more a Rorschach test. They looked menacing and tearful at the same time—eyes that could betray warmth, fear, or deadened anger without changing at all. He was like many great actors in that respect, only more so. Often his characters seemed to be enigmas to themselves.

Liotta, who died on Thursday (May 26) while filming a new project in the Dominican Republic, was also a mystery to himself. As a baby he was abandoned in an orphanage. He received his family name from his adoptive parents when he was six months old. It was not until later in life, when he hired a private investigator to track down his birth mother, that he learned of his primarily Scottish origins. But in reality, Liotta was a boy from Newark, New Jersey, a self-proclaimed “jock” who studied acting in college before pursuing it professionally. After moving to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, Liotta struggled for five years to make a name for himself. He was only considered for a role after taking an acting course with Melanie Griffith Something wildthe 1986 crime comedy film directed by silence of the Lambs“Jonathan Demme. “If I hadn’t gotten that film, I would have had to go to work because the money was pretty much spent,” he later confessed.

Describes the success behind his breakthrough as Griffith’s rogue ex-husband Something wild In character, Liotta said, “I just did my homework and I was where I was supposed to be.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his efforts, and the film led to a number of others. First as disgraced baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson field of dreams (1989), then the following year as Irish mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s crime epic Goodfellas.

Goodfellas was always a film for which Scorsese got the lion’s share of credit, but it’s hard to underestimate the centrality of Liotta’s performance. He captures every shadow of Hill – the young upstart; the smug gangster; the duplicitous lover; the spiral drug addict – with absolute certainty. There are few images in cinema more indelible than the sight of Liotta’s Henry Hill, high on cocaine and squinting paranoidly at a helicopter. Hill’s downfall is beautifully captured by the film’s music and Thelma Schoonmaker’s expert editing, but it’s Liotta’s performance – that desperate, panicked look of an animal caught in a trap – that sticks with you the most.

There was something about Liotta, especially as he got older, that seemed to exude authority. It’s no wonder he ended up playing mostly law enforcement roles. Perhaps the gold standard for this came in the 1997s cop countryLiotta plays a generally well-meaning cop in a corruption-ridden precinct opposite Sylvester Stallone.

while they laugh Goodfellas were mostly queasy sneers that punctuated or preceded a scene of horrendous violence, Liotta also had a surprisingly refined comedy sensibility. He threw himself into inappropriate projects like Jerry Seinfeld’s bee movie or Most Wanted Muppetsas well as dipping his toes in TV comedies like Frasier (as a cameo), family Guyand Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

In 2019 history of marriage he was downright hilarious as a hard-nosed divorce attorney. When it came to awards season, the performance was overshadowed by Laura Dern’s kill-em-with-kindness performance as a rival attorney on the opposite bench, but Liotta’s pit bull attorney was just as captivating.

Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas

(Warner Bros)

After a string of acclaimed performances in the early 2000s – including a starring role in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in which he played the criminal Tommy Vercetti, Liotta spent a few years away from the Hollywood mainstream. He had made a convincing comeback in the past decade.

As well as history of marriagein it he devoured roles A place beyond the pines and Sin City: A Lady to Kill. His last major appearance was in 2021 The sopranos precursor The Many Saints of Newark. He not only delivered one scene-stealing performance, but two: as brazen, horny mafioso Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and his pensive twin brother Salvatore (“Sally”), who are serving a long prison sentence for killing another man. After the success of GoodfellasLiotta was always reserved with mafia projects – he rejected the role of Ralph Cifaretto The sopranos for fear of being typecast – but there’s something fitting about his return to the genre at the end of his life.

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sure, Newark shouldn’t be his last film. Besides the project he was working on at the time of his death, Dangerous waters (whose future is unknown), Liotta had reportedly finished work on a new horror titled cocaine bearand an untitled comedy written and directed by it’s always sunny in Philadelphiais Charlie Day.

Moltisanti the Elder: Liotta, right, in the ‘Sopranos’ prequel film ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

(Warner Bros)

In a 2019 interview, Liotta opened up about his own relationship with fame, his unwillingness to maintain his profile by “doing showbizzy-esque things.” “I’m probably not as tall as I’d like to be sometimes, but there’s a method to my madness,” he said said square mile. “I don’t think an actor should be out there too much because it takes away the mystery of who you are. I think it’s better to stay under the radar.” Of course, Liotta never managed to stay under the radar when it mattered; he was too good. The cinema was all the richer for it.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/ray-liotta-tribute-death-goodfellas-b2088428.html Ray Liotta was so much more than Goodfellas


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