Ray Liotta, the actor best known for portraying mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s crime classic ‘Goodfellas’ and bringing a magnetically edgy energy to a gallery of crime dramas and thrillers, has died.
He was 67 years old.
Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming the movie “Dangerous Waters”, according to his publicist, Jennifer Allen. No foul play is suspected, according to Allen, who said Liotta’s fiancee, Jacy Nittolo, was with him on the island.
In an acting career that spanned four decades, Liotta established himself as one of Hollywood’s most reliable badass, adept at portraying cops and criminals in films like “Something Wild “, “Cop Land” and “Killing Them Softly”.
But he’s shown a warmer side at times, endearing himself to audiences as the ghost of baseball giant Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” opposite Kevin Costner.
‘Goodfellas’ was unquestionably the highlight of his career, giving him a juicy starring role in a decade-long mafia epic. He portrayed Henry Hill, a true mob associate who gets caught up in the thrill and glamor of the criminal underworld.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster,” Liotta’s Hill says at the start of the film via voiceover, summing up Scorsese’s take on mid-century mob life as the aspiration ultimate for men with fragile morals. .
Lorraine Bracco, who played Liotta’s wife in ‘Goodfellas’, paid tribute to her former co-star on Twitter after the news broke, writing, “I’m completely overwhelmed to hear this terrible news. regarding my Ray.”
“I can be anywhere in the world and people come up and tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas. Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My answer has always been the same …Ray Liotta,” Bracco said in the tweet.
In the wake of “Goodfellas,” Liotta remained a respected film entertainer and a recognizable face, reinventing himself in the later years of his acting career who could add gravitas and swagger to any scene. .
He’s had a small-scale comeback in recent years, appearing as a divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” mob boss in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move,” and New Jersey bigwig in “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel to HBO’s “The Sopranos.”
“I used to think, when I started playing, that I had to experience everything to be able to do it. But then I realized that what acting is is using your imagination,” said Liotta told The New York Times for a profile published in 1992.
Raymond Allen Liotta was born on December 18, 1954 in New Jersey. He was adopted by Alfred and Mary Liotta when he was a baby. He made his acting debut on the NBC soap opera “Another World,” then struggled to find major work in Hollywood.
He scored his breakout role in Jonathan Demme’s quirky comedy ‘Something Wild’, playing Melanie Griffith’s psychotic ex-con husband – a turn that hinted at the disarming edginess he could bring to the screen.
“Field of Dreams” elevated his status, and “Goodfellas” catapulted him into American movie history. Liotta stood up to Scorsese regulars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. (Pesci was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1991.)
The decades that followed were mixed for Liotta’s career. He alternated between crime sagas, thrillers and comedies. Highlights included sharp turns in films like “Blow”, “Narc”, “John Q”, “Identity” and “The Place Beyond the Pines”.
He also appeared occasionally on television, playing himself on the sitcom “Just Shoot Me!” and co-starred with Jennifer Lopez in the NBC crime drama “Shades of Blue.”
Liotta was married to Michelle Grace and had one child.