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Ray Liotta, star of 'Goodfellas and 'Field of Dreams,' dies at 67

Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Liotta read the script and couldn’t believe the premise — he also hadn’t played baseball since he was in ninth grade. But his agent encouraged him to take the role, and Liotta spent months working out with USC’s baseball coach.

The sports fantasy, about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball field in his backyard to attract ghosts of past players, was voted the greatest sports movie of all time in a 2019 survey of L.A. Times readers and was included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2017.

But it was a movie that Liotta said he never actually saw in full.

“My mom was really sick during that period, so it brings back other things,” Liotta told the Huffington Post. Then, in an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” in 2021, he said that he tried to watch it with his ailing mother but she “she couldn’t really enjoy herself so we left, and I just equate it with that.”

Liotta‘s best-known role remains mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster film “Goodfellas” alongside Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Liotta was tapped to narrate the Oscar-winning tale of Hill’s growth into the Italian American crime syndicate adapted from the nonfiction book “Wiseguy.”

“People to this day still come and talk to me about ‘Goodfellas,’” Liotta told the L.A. Times in 2015.

 

Though he was Scorsese’s first choice for the part, Liotta also had a hard time locking it in. Famed producer Irwin Winkler pushed back because of the actor’s menacing performance in “Something Wild.” Ultimately, it was Liotta’s agreeable, warm and gracious demeanor in person that eventually won them over — and was exactly what Scorsese wanted for the role. (Val Kilmer, Nicolas Cage, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise were also reportedly in consideration.)

In a 1990 interview with the L.A. Times, Liotta called the audition process “horrible, horrible, horrible.”

“It has nothing to do with you personally. And then the dream just falls into place,” he said. “I just couldn’t wait to work with people who wanted to play as deeply as I did. Because I really believe it’s a game, but I believe that what makes someone stand out is they commit themselves deeper and fuller than maybe other actors do.”

Liotta also made that film in New York while his mother was dying of cancer, which shaped his memory of the role.

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