“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.”
The Oscar-winning director penned an essay for The Guardian reflecting on Liotta’s legacy after the critically acclaimed actor died at age 67 last month. However, despite Scorsese and Liotta working together on one of the greatest films of all time, the “Wolf of Wall Street” auteur did not cross professional paths with Liotta again.
“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.”
Scorsese looked back on Liotta’s “fearless” power both on and off the screen.
“On ‘Goodfellas,’ we were working improvisationally in most scenes, and many members of the team had known each other and worked together for years, including my mother and my father,” Scorsese explained. “Into that walked the new guy, Ray Liotta, and he never missed a beat. It felt like we’d worked together for years.”
And Scorsese didn’t shy away from his own personal battles leading up to the making of “Goodfellas,” writing, “We had some problems trying to get ‘Goodfellas’ made. It came at a low moment in my career and the studios were not exactly eager to work with me.” Plus, the “big production” gangster epic, adapted from a biography on former mobster Henry Hill, had to find the perfect leading man.
It was only when Scorsese watched Liotta in Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” that he knew the actor had star potential. And meeting Liotta in real life at the “Last Temptation of Christ” premiere at the Venice Film Festival is what sealed the deal.
“I saw him handle [a] situation with quiet authority and a real elegance,” Scorsese said. “That was just what the role needed. When I look back on it, I believe that was the moment when I knew I wanted Ray to play Henry Hill.”
The director also mused on what another encounter with Liotta could have looked like: “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.”