Ray Liotta, best remembered for his role as gangster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s crime classic “Goodfellas” and for adding seductively edgy energy to a gallery of crime dramas and thrillers, has died.
He was 67 years old.
According to his spokeswoman, Jennifer Allen, Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming “Dangerous Waters.” According to Allen, who stated Liotta’s fiancée Jacy Nittolo was with him on the island, no foul play is suspected.
In a four-decade playing career, Liotta established himself as one of Hollywood’s most dependable tough-guy actors, adept at portraying cops and criminals in films such as “Something Wild,” “Cop Land,” and “Killing Them Softly.”
But he had a softer side, charming himself to moviegoers in “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner, as the ghost of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson.
However, “Goodfellas” was undeniably the pinnacle of his career, giving him a meaty main part in a decade-spanning mafia epic. He played Henry Hill, a real-life mafia associate who becomes enamored with the thrills and glitz of the criminal underground.
“I’ve always wanted to be a gangster,” Liotta’s Hill famously states through voiceover track at the beginning of the film, encapsulating Scorsese’s depiction of mid-century mob life as the ultimate desire for men with weak morals.
After the news surfaced, Lorraine Bracco, who portrayed Liotta’s long-suffering wife in “Goodfellas,” expressed her condolences on Twitter, saying, “I am absolutely crushed to hear this horrible news about dear Ray.”
“People will approach me from all over the world and tell me that their favorite film is Goodfellas. Then they always want to know what the most enjoyable aspect of creating the film was. It’s always been the same for me… In a tweet, Bracco stated, “Ray Liotta.”
After “Goodfellas,” Liotta remained a recognized movie artist and familiar figure, redefining himself as an actor who could bring gravity and swagger to any scene in his final years of work.
In recent years, he has made a tiny return, starring as a divorce lawyer in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” a crime boss in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move,” and a New Jersey bigwig in HBO’s “The Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.”
“When I first started acting, I used to believe that I needed to have done everything to be able to perform it. But then I discovered that acting is all about utilizing your imagination,” Liotta said in a 1992 interview with The New York Times.
Raymond Allen Liotta was born in New Jersey on December 18, 1954. When he was a baby, Alfred and Mary Liotta adopted him. He made his acting debut in the NBC daytime drama “Another World,” but failed to secure significant Hollywood roles after that.
In Jonathan Demme’s offbeat comedy “Something Wild,” he played Melanie Griffith’s crazy ex-convict husband, a part that hinted at the disarming nerviness he could bring to the film.
“Field of Dreams” increased his profile, while “Goodfellas” cemented his place in cinematic history. Against Scorsese regulars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Liotta held his own. (Pesci was the only cast member to be nominated for an Academy Award, earning the award for best supporting actor in 1991.)
Liotta’s career took a turn for the worst in the decades that followed. He switched back and forth between grim criminal dramas, thrillers, and comedy. “Blow,” “Narc,” “John Q,” “Identity,” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” were among the high-octane performances.
He has appeared on television on occasion, portraying himself in the sitcom “Just Shoot Me!” and co-starring in the NBC cop drama “Shades of Blue” with Jennifer Lopez.
Liotta has one kid with Michelle Grace, with whom she was married.