Ray Liotta, who broke out in Hollywood in the mob classic “Goodfellas” and starred in “Field of Dreams,” has died. He was 67.
The actor died overnight in his sleep in the Dominican Republic while shooting the film “Dangerous Waters,” his spokeswoman, Jennifer Allen, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times Thursday.
No health issues or foul play were suspected, Allen said.
In a decadeslong, genre-spanning career, Liotta played criminals, cops, a baseball star, a preacher and even Frank Sinatra. He also starred in “Something Wild,” “Corrina, Corrina,” “Operation Dumbo Drop,” “Narc” and “Charlie St. Cloud.”
"[I]t’s always about the work. I enjoy the job. I love playing pretend. I’ve worked with some great directors and actors, and one of the basic things they have in common is this love of playing pretend,” Liotta told the L.A. Times in 2015. “There’s this electric energy, and it’s so much fun to be around people who find that joy in playing pretend.”
The soft-spoken New Jersey native had acted steadily since graduating from the University of Miami in the late 1970s. For six months, he worked as a Broadway bartender, serving drinks to theatergoers during intermissions of the Shubert presentations of “Dancin’ ” and “I Love My Wife.”
He got his first break in 1978 on the soap opera “Another World.” It was his first professional role in New York and he described his character, Joey Perrini, as “the nicest guy in the world.”
He then moved to Hollywood with the hopes of starting a film career. He worked regularly in television on a number of short-lived series, including playing bartender Sacha in David Wolper’s “Casablanca” series in 1983. He spent about five years on the Hollywood casting circuit before meeting director Jonathan Demme and becoming the lean, mean menace of the 1986 film “Something Wild.”
The character of Ray Sinclair, Melanie Griffith’s ex-con husband in the crime comedy, would make him a movie star. But he was shut out of the audition process until his pal Griffith persuaded Demme to consider him. Later, in DVD commentary for the film, Demme said that Liotta scared him so much that he “had to cast him.”
He landed several movie roles after that, including “Dominick and Eugene,” “Cop Land” and “Unlawful Entry.” In 1989, he played baseball’s ultimate outsider-hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, in Phil Alden Robinson’s “Field of Dreams.”