Ray Liotta, the blue-eyed actor who played mobster Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas’ and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in ‘Field of Dreams,’ has passed away. He had died at the age of 67 years.
Jen Allen, Liotta’s publicist, said the actor was in the Dominican Republic filming a new film when he died. Police in the Dominican Republic responded to a call shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday and discovered Liotta dead at a hotel where he was staying with his fiancee.
In an emailed statement, Ray Liotta, who co-starred with Liotta in the film “Goodfellas,” expressed his sadness over Liotta’s death. De Niro added, “He’s way too young to have left us.”
Alessandro Nivola, who recently co-starred with him in “The Many Saints of Newark,” and the film’s writer and producer David Chase also paid tribute to Liotta. “Dangerous, unpredictable, amusing, and generous in his admiration for other actors,” Nivola said of Liotta. “We all felt like we lucked out having him on that film,” Chase said in a statement.
A township clerk and an auto parts owner adopted the Newark, New Jersey native when he was six months old from an orphanage. Liotta and the movies both assumed he was primarily Italian. However, later in life, while looking for his birth parents, he discovered that he is Scottish.
Though he grew up doing sports, including baseball, the theatre teacher asked him if he wanted to be in a play, which he consented to on a whim during his senior year of high school. It placed a seed in his mind, whether he realised it or not at the time, even though he figured he’d finish up working in construction. Later, he chose drama and acting at the University of Miami because they didn’t have any math requirements. In interviews, he would frequently claim that he only began auditioning for plays after an attractive female advised him to do so. It did, however, set him on the right path. He hired an agent after graduating and earned his first major break on the soap opera “Another World” soon after.
He would have to wait a few years before landing his first major film part, as Melanie Griffith’s hotheaded ex-convict husband Ray, in Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild.” He was 30 at the time and had been unemployed for five years. He told The Associated Press in a 1993 interview that, despite knowing Griffith, he wanted to get the part on his own merits. He “phoned Melanie” after that didn’t work.
“I despised doing it because, to me, that’s politics: enlisting the aid of others.” But I’m beginning to see that’s a big part of it,” he explained.
In recognition of his performance, he was nominated for a Golden Globe. He’d play the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams” a few years later, and it was a memorable part for him. It had its detractors, even if it moved many people to tears. During a Mets game, Liotta overheard a baseball announcer complaining that he batted in the opposite direction as Joe Jackson.
“(Bleep) you, (bleep) you, (bleep) you, (ble He, too, did not return from the dead!” Liotta remembered something she had been thinking about.
Soon later, Liotta landed her most famous part as real-life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas.” But he and Scorsese had to fight for it, with many auditions and studio pleadings to cast the still-unknown actor.
“So extraordinarily brilliant, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor,” said Scorsese on Thursday.
“Playing Henry Hill in Good Fellas was a tall order,” the director stated in a statement, “since the character had so many distinct facets, so many complicated layers, and Ray was in practically every scene of a lengthy, difficult shoot.” “He blew me away, and I’ll never forget the work we did on that picture together.”
“Goodfellas” cemented Liotta’s (and Bracco’s) status as “two of our best new cinema actors,” according to Roger Ebert in his assessment.
“He establishes the emotional core of a film that is not about the reality of being a Mafioso, but about the feeling,” Ebert remarked.
“Henry Hill isn’t that edgy of a character,” Liotta explained in a 2012 interview. The actual killings are carried out by the other guys. Most audiences actually adore him for the one physical thing he does, which is when he goes after the person who went after Karen.”
In the same interview, he gushed about how “Goodfellas” has taken on a “life of its own” and has only gotten better with time. “People watch it over and over and respond to it, and people of all ages come up to me and express their emotional connection to it,” he added. “Even today, teenagers come up to me and express their emotional connection to it.”
Whether playing Johnny Depp’s father in “Blow” or Adam Driver’s brash divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story,” Liotta manages to stand out and dominate scenes in both dramas and comedies.
Though he was apprehensive of being typecast, he seemed to specialize in mafiosos (he even narrated an AMC docu-series called “The Making of the Mob”). Because of that, he was passed over for the role of Ralphie on “The Sopranos.” In Andrew Dominik’s ‘Killing Them Softly,’ he’d still play a mobster with James Gandolfini. He’d also pay for his own audition for ‘The Many Saints of Newark.’ He told The Guardian last year, “I’m really not sure what made me that driven.” “However, I was, and it all worked out in the end.”
In films such as ‘Unlawful Entry,’ ‘Cop Land,’ ‘Narc,’ ‘The Place Beyond the Pines,’ and ‘Observe and Report,’ Liotta frequently played various law enforcement types, from cops and detectives to federal agents.’ Many of the people were scum.
In the 2001 film ‘Hannibal,’ he played Hannibal Lecter’s victim, and in the TV movie ‘The Rat Pack,’ he played Frank Sinatra, for which he received a Screen Actors Guild nomination. In the video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” he is best known as the voice of Tommy Vercetti. In the series ‘Shades of Blue,’ he also starred alongside Jennifer Lopez. He previously told the Los Angeles Times that his sole regret was declining a meeting with Tim Burton about starring in “Batman.”
At the time of his death, Liotta was engaged to Jacy Nittolo and had one daughter, Karsen, with ex-wife Michelle Grace.
He also has a number of currents and future projects, including Elizabeth Banks’ ‘Cocaine Bear,’ which is set to be released in February, and Dennis Lehane’s Apple TV+ crime thriller ‘Black Bird,’ which stars Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser and was developed by Dennis Lehane. ‘The Substance,’ starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, was also set to begin filming soon.
In 2012, Liotta stated, “The business is tough no matter where you are in your career.” “They always have a reason to say no to you – that’s the worst thing… But the job itself is still a challenge: persuading people that what they’re seeing is true. What can I say, I still enjoy pretending to be someone else. It’s also a lot of fun.”