The real ‘Goodfella’ lucky Ray Liotta didn’t make him a ‘scumbag’

After Goodfellas came out in 1990, Ray Liotta got a call out of the blue: It was the man he was portraying in the film, gangster-turned-whistle-blower Henry Hill.

Hill told the actor he’d “like to sit down and talk to you,” and the two agreed to meet at Jerry’s Deli in the Valley at the bowling alley, Liotta told The Post in 2020.

“And the first thing he said was, ‘Thanks for not making me look like a bastard!’ And I said, ‘Seriously? Have you seen the movie? You cheated on your wife, you dealt drugs when your crew told you not to.” I wondered what made him think it wasn’t him.

“It was an interesting perspective that people have of themselves.”

Ray Liotta a "Goodfellas."
Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas”.

The actor, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 67, explained how he was preparing for his most famous role. First, he read the non-fiction book the film was based on, Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 Wiseguy, which focuses on Hill. Pileggi also co-wrote the film’s screenplay with director Martin Scorsese.

Read more The New York Post’s coverage of Ray Liotta’s death

“When I got the part, Marty took me and Lorraine and Nick Pileggi, the screenwriter and casting agent, to Rao’s in Harlem. And we sat and talked. I spoke to Nick Pileggi a lot and he gave me the tapes he used to interview Henry for the book Wiseguy,” Liotta recalls.

“I would take my mother’s car and listen to the tape. I would just listen to it over and over again.”

Henry Hill in 2005.
Henry Hill in 2005.

Liotta told the Post that Scorsese didn’t want him to meet with Hill beforehand.

“I did not care. I think he was scared [that] maybe he’s changing the story or manipulating things. We just took what was in the book that Nick Pileggi wrote and then Marty and Nick worked on the script. I know Bob spoke to him, but I didn’t speak to him at all, and I didn’t feel like it because I listened to the tapes Nick gave me of Henry’s interview for the book,” he said Actor, referring to Robert De Niro.

Liotta told the Post that he would meet Hill with his brother every now and then in Venice, California.

Hill, who died in June 2012, became an FBI informant and testified against his cohorts.

“There was nothing in his story that paralleled or overlapped with my life,” Liotta said of playing Hill. “I couldn’t do anything with anything.” The real ‘Goodfella’ lucky Ray Liotta didn’t make him a ‘scumbag’

Emma Bowman

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