Ray Liotta had several films and a television series in the works before his sudden death on Thursday at age 67. At least two projects, Universal’s wild drug-filled thriller “Cocaine Bear” and the Apple TV Plus limited series “Black Bird,” had already completed production and should be released according to schedule, sources say.
Liotta died in his sleep while shooting “Dangerous Waters” in the Dominican Republic. The indie movie began production over a month ago, but it’s not clear where they were in terms of filming. John Barr is directing “Dangerous Waters,” a thriller about a sailing holiday that spirals out of control when a teenage daughter uncovers the dark past of her mother’s new boyfriend. The film also stars “You” actor Saffron Burrows, Odeya Rush (“Lady Bird”) and Eric Dane of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Euphoria” fame.
In a statement, “Dangerous Waters” producers did not comment on the film’s production schedule but offered sympathy to Liotta’s family. “We were deeply saddened to learn of Ray’s passing, it’s a tremendous loss and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, fiancé Jacy and daughter Karsen,” they said.
The status of other projects involving Liotta — including writer-director Charlie Day’s comedy “El Tonto” and Universal’s drama “The Substance,” co-starring Margaret Qualley and Demi Moore — also remains a question mark.
In “Black Bird,” which lands on Apple TV+ on July 8, Liotta is playing a police officer whose son (portrayed by Taron Egerton) is sentenced to 10 years in prison for dealing drugs. While serving time, he’s offered early parole on the condition that he relocates to a prison for the criminally insane and befriends serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser).
“Black Bird” showrunner Dennis Lehane said in a statement that he wrote the part of Big Jim Keene in the Apple TV+ series for Liotta.
“It was, quite literally, the culmination of a lifelong dream to work with Ray Liotta. From the moment I saw him blow out the screen, his co-stars, and the back of the theater in ‘Something Wild,’ I found him the most electric American actor of his generation. At the heart of a Ray Liotta performance was a duality that he couldn’t quite control; I suspect it wasn’t conscious. It felt, instead, like something that was locked in his DNA. When his character was threatening and dangerous, he still couldn’t fully hide the sweet little boy inside. When the character was charming, even loving, you could still feel something volatile roiling underneath.
“I had no other actor in mind and was floored — humbled, honored, fist-pump elated — when he leapt at playing the part less than 24 hours after we sent him the scripts,” Lehane continued. “And the performance he gave? It was a master class. He wholly embodied a man who realizes that his lifetime of cutting corners and flitting along the edges of corruption have hung an albatross of very bleak options around the neck of his own son. But as deeply flawed and compromised as the character is, Ray found the nobility in a man who would run into a burning building for that same son and never break his stride. It was that duality I counted on to carry the emotional heart of our show from beginning to end.”
It’s not clear who Liotta is playing in “Cocaine Bear,” which wrapped filming in Ireland last October. The Elizabeth Banks-directed movie is currently in post-production and is aiming to debut in theaters on Feb. 24, 2023. “Cocaine Bear” is inspired by the true story of an American black bear that goes on a murderous rampage after ingesting a staggering amount of blow. Along with Liotta, the cast includes Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, Margo Martindale and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Read more: Ray Liotta’s Career in Photos
Later on Thursday, Banks took to social media to talk about her “special bond” with Liotta, whom she met on the 2011 dark comedy “The Details.”
“I always admired his acting but I genuinely enjoyed him as a human. He was a charmer,” she said. “We have been collaborating on ‘Cocaine Bear’ these past few months. I just saw him, hugged him, heard about his summer travel plans. When any actor of Ray’s caliber puts trust in you as a director, it’s a gift. But Ray gave me so much more. I had been told in the past by Hollywood producers that men wouldn’t follow me, that I couldn’t direct action because of that. Ray’s respect for me as a director, actress and artist, as his boss on set, meant everything to me because if you can direct Henry Hill, you can do fucking anything in this town.”
— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) May 26, 2022
Liotta, a New Jersey native, was best known for portraying real-life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and MLB star Shoeless Joe Jackson opposite Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams.” In recent years, he appeared as a divorce lawyer in Noah Baumbach’s relationship drama “Marriage Story,” a mobster in director Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” and twin brothers “Hollywood Dick” and “Sally” Moltisanti in the “Sopranos” prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark.”