While paying tribute to the late Ray Liotta, Martin Scorsese reflected on why he was unable to work with the actor again after Goodfellas.
In an op-ed for The Guardian, published Monday, Scorsese recalled working with the actor, who passed away last month at the age of 67, on the 1990 classic and shared his regret over never reuniting with the actor for another project before his death.
“We had many plans to work together again but the timing was always off, or the project wasn’t quite right. I regret that now,” Scorsese wrote. “When I watched Ray as the divorce lawyer in Marriage Story — 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.”
“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. But maybe he knew that. I hope so,” Scorsese continued.
Throughout his tribute, Scorsese shared behind-the-scenes stories from Goodfellas, describing Liotta as someone who “never missed a beat” and their relationship as one that “felt like we’d worked together for years.”
While on set, Scorsese found Liotta “distraught” in his trailer after learning his mother had passed away. Though the director “told him that he had to go to be with her,” Scorsese recalled Liotta being “adamant” that “he wanted to do the scene before he left.” The director called it a “rare experience” to witness Liotta perform the scene “so beautifully” before leaving to “be with his beloved mother.”
“We walked to the set together, everyone was told what was happening, and something extraordinary happened when we rolled,” Scorsese wrote. “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.”
Publicist Jennifer Allen told THR that Liotta died in his sleep in his hotel room while in the Dominican Republic making the film Dangerous Waters, which he had begun working on a week prior. His fiancée, Jacy Nittolo, had been with him.
In a statement sent to THR following the news of Liotta’s death, Scorsese said, “He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor. Playing Henry Hill in Good Fellas 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.”
GoodFellas co-stars Robert De Niro and Lorraine Bracco also paid tribute to Liotta. “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too young to have left us. May he Rest in Peace,” De Niro said in a statement sent to THR. Meanwhile, Bracco tweeted that she’s “utterly shattered” over the news and credited the actor as the “best part” of their film: “I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite movie is ‘Goodfellas.’ Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same…Ray Liotta.”
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