Ray Liotta Was A Goodfella And Didn’t Live His Life Like A Schnook

If you’ve hung around any college campus in the last 30 years, you probably definitely saw the Goodfellas poster adorned on someone’s wall. The image of legendary actor Robert DeNiro looking at camera with his arms folded and his co-stars Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta on his sides both turning their heads a little to look at the camera became a symbol of badassery. You wouldn’t want to cross anyone of these guys.

For the most part, Liotta who died on Thursday, May 26 was one of the go-to actors whenever you needed someone to play a bad guy, corrupt cop or mobster. With those blue eyes and that intense stare, he looked very intimidating. And he could unleash a ferocity that could make bigger men cower.

As an infant, Liotta was abandoned at an orphanage in Newark, N.J., and grew up in Union, N.J. He got the acting bug early in his life and studied acting at the University of Miami graduating with a BFA in Fine Arts.

Like most actors, he cut his teeth on TV soap operas and other TV shows starting out. He had a role on Another World early on. But it was his role as the psychotic Ray Sinclair in Something Wild that would forever change his career and life. Playing the ex-husband of Audrey “Lulu” Hankel (Melanie Griffith), he took what people thought was going to be a quirky romance comedy road trip down a dark path. He more or less kidnaps Audrey and beats up the NYC yuppie Charlie Driggs (Jeff Daniels) she’s wih.

The movie was a critics’ darling even though it barely made much over its budget. But it proved that Liotta was a tour-de-force actor. He was later cast as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Fields of Dreams where his character uttered a simple question, “Is this Heaven?” that became memorable. The movie was also a favorite with critics and fans and Liotta was already on his way to the A-list.

Then, he was cast in his most famous role as real-life mobster Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Despite being a criminal hood who never does actually kills someone but could be considered an ancessory, Liotta brought both a likability to the role. Henry Hill wasn’t a faithful husband or Ward Cleaver when it came to be a parent. But there’s was almost an innocence as Henry had been thrown into situations he just had to deal with. Even when he’s descending into drug addiction and madness, you’re still caring for him. Pretty much people can quote every line of this movie and Liotta does have many.

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.”

“They even shot Tommy in the face, so his mother couldn’t give him an open coffin at the funeral.”

“When they found Carbone in the meat locker, he was frozen so stiff, it took them two days to thaw him out for the autopsy.”

“I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

Well, Liotta wasn’t a schnook. Goodfellas made him a legend as the image of him laughing hysterically with fellow mobsters became a Internet meme. And the Goodfeathers segments of the popular 1990s animated show Animaniacs was based on the iconic movie. Now, just about everyone agrees Goodfellas was far better and deserving of the Best Picture Oscar than Dances With Wolves, which starred his Field co-star Kevin Costner.

Liotta spent most of the 1990s appearing in A-list movies, whether appearing as a crooked cop in Unlawful Entry or as an Army captain in the Disney movie Operation Dumbo Drop. Even though he was often cast as bad guys, he did get cast as good guys. But unfortunately, those good guy roles in Corrina Corrina, Article 99, All Thing Fall Apart or Blow, in which he played the sympathetic caring father of drug smuggler George Jung, often weren’t critical nor financial successes.

People wanted to see Liotta play a bad guy or at least a not-so-nice guy. Even his role as NYPD officer Gary “Figgsy” Figgis in Copland had him playing a man who was overcome with grief and guilt after accidentally killing his girlfriend in a house fire to collect the insurance money. His role as Figgsy alongside Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel and DeNiro had many critics calling it his best role since Goodfellas. And they were stunned when Copland was snubbed at the Oscars.

Probably one of his most memorable roles is as corrupt Justice Department offical Paul Krendler in Hannibal where he is sedated and made to eat a piece of his own brain. I remember watching this in a theater and people were cringing and freaking out. The way it was filmed and how Liotta acted along with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore made it all more memorable. Granted the sequel to the Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs isn’t as good, but this scene sticks out.

Liotta would also appear in cameo roles in kids movies, such as Bee Movie, Muppets From Space and Muppets Most Wanted. And two of his recent roles were as mobsters in No Sudden Move and The Many Saints of Newark. He reportedly died in the Dominican Republic while filming Dangerous Waters, one of several movies reportedly due to be released posthumously.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: