Martin Scorsese published a heartfelt tribute in The Guardian to the late actor Ray Liotta, whose most iconic role was Henry Hill in Scorsese’s gangster masterpiece “Goodfellas.” While Scorsese would go on to reunite with “Goodfellas” actors such as Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci after the release of his 1990 classic, he never got the chance to work with Liotta again. Following Liotta’s sudden death last month, Scorsese expressed regret over never reuniting with the actor.
“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 writes. “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,” Scorsese adds. “But maybe he knew that. I hope so.”
Earlier in his tribute, Scorsese writes about how fearless Liotta was on set. The actor received news shortly before filming one of the more emotional scenes in “Goodfellas” that his mother was dying of cancer. Scorsese insisted Liotta leave the set to be with his mother, but the actor refused and filmed the scene anyway. The tears Henry Hill sheds in the scenes are Liotta’s real tears for his mother, Scorsese writes.
“The word ‘fearless’ is used quite often to describe actors, and with good reason: actors need to be fearless,” the filmmaker adds. “They have to jump in and just go, and they have to stumble and fail and risk appearing ridiculous as they’re finding their way into a role. That’s just part of the work. 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. Into that walked the new guy, Ray Liotta, and he never missed a beat. It felt like we’d worked together for years.”
Liotta’s “Goodfellas” co-star and frequent scene partner Lorraine Bracco published her own tribute on the same day news broke of the actor’s death. “I am utterly shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray,” she wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Head over to The Guardian’s website to read Scorsese’s tribute in its entirety.