Ray Liotta, an intense actor who achieved movie stardom playing Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster classic “Goodfellas,” passed away at the age of 67.
According to a Deadline report, Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was shooting the new film “Dangerous Waters.”
Rise To Prominence: Raymond Allen Liotta was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Dec. 18, 1954. He was abandoned as an infant and adopted at the age of six; His father was an Italian immigrant and his mother claimed Scottish heritage.
Liotta gained his first prominence on the soap opera “Another World,” playing the role of Joey from 1978 to 1981. His film debut was in a supporting role in the 1983 melodrama “The Lonely Lady” starring Pia Zadora, and he landed his first major part as Melanie Griffith’s violent ex-boyfriend in the 1986 film “Something Wild,” which earned him a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
Liotta had a small but pivotal role as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the 1989 “Field of Dreams” before landing his star-turn in “Goodfellas,” playing opposite Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. Although more established box office stars including Tom Cruise, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin were cited as being in consideration for the role, Liotta landed the part based largely on Scorsese's positive reaction to his "Something Wild" performance. The film was a critical and commercial success, making Liotta a household name.
Later Career: Unfortunately for Liotta, he never secured a follow-up role to match the visceral energy of his “Goodfellas” star turn; unlike co-stars DeNiro and Pesci, Liotta never worked again with Scorsese.
Into the 1990s, he appeared in a diverse mix of roles — as the psychotic cop in “Unlawful Entry” (1992), as an ex-Marine breaking out of a prison in the sci-fi thriller “No Escape” (1994) and as a Vietnam-era military officer helping to deliver an elephant in “Operation Dumbo Drop” (1995). By the end of the decade and into the 2000s, Liotta’s bankability as a box office attraction began to wane and he was mostly found in supporting parts within major films and in the leading roles of smaller films that rarely registered with an audience.
Still, he never wore out his welcome and Liotta found receptive audiences via television. He received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for playing Frank Sinatra in “The Rat Pack” (1998) and won an Emmy for a 2004 guest appearance on “ER.” In recent years, he made guest appearances on TV series including “Modern Family,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Young Sheldon,” and he completed the Apple TV+ (NASDAQ:AAPL) mini-series “Black Bird” co-starring Taron Egerton, which is scheduled to premiere on July 8.
Photo: Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas," courtesy of Warner Bros.
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