‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Field of Dreams’ star Ray Liotta dies at 67

Ray Liotta, who broke into Hollywood in the mob classic ‘Goodfellas’ and starred in ‘Field of Dreams’, has died. He was 67 years old.

The actor died overnight in his sleep in the Dominican Republic while filming the movie “Dangerous Waters,” his spokeswoman, Jennifer Allen, confirmed to The Times on Thursday.

No health issues or foul play were suspected, Allen said.

Over a decades-long career spanning multiple genres, Liotta has 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]It’s always about work. I like work. I love to play pretend. I’ve worked with great directors and actors, and one of the fundamental things they have in common is this love of pretend play,” Liotta told The Times in 2015. “There’s this electric energy, and it’s so much fun to be around people who find this joy in pretend play.

The soft-spoken New Jersey native had been acting steadily since graduating from the University of Miami in the late 1970s. For six months he worked as a bartender on Broadway, serving drinks to concertgoers during the 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 hoping to start a film career. He worked regularly on television on a number of short-lived series, including a wink and you’ll miss it role playing bartender Sacha in David Wolper’s 1983 series “Casablanca”. He spent around five years on the Hollywood cast. circuit before meeting director Jonathan Demme and becoming the lean, villainous menace in the 1986 film “Something Wild.”

The character of Ray Sinclair, Melanie Griffith’s ex-husband in the crime comedy, would make Liotta a movie star. But he was left out of the audition process until his friend Griffith persuaded Demme to consider him. Later, in a DVD commentary for the film, Demme said that Liotta scared him so much that he “had to choose it”.

Liotta went on to land several film roles, including “Dominick and Eugene”, “Cop Land”, and “Unlawful Entry”. In 1989, he played baseball’s ultimate underdog hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, in Phil Alden Robinson’s “Field of Dreams.”

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

The sports fantasy, about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond in his backyard to attract the ghosts of former players, was voted the greatest sports movie of all time in a 2019 survey of viewers. Times readers and was included in the National Library of Congress film. Registry in 2017.

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

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

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

“People to this day still come and tell me about ‘Goodfellas,'” Liotta told The Times in 2015.

Although he was Scorsese’s first choice for the role, Liotta also struggled to lock it down. Famed producer Irwin Winkler pushed back because of the actor’s menacing performance in “Something Wild.” In the end, it was Liotta’s pleasant, warm and gracious demeanor herself that finally won them over – and that was exactly what Scorsese wanted for the role. (Val Kilmer, Nicolas Cage, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise would also have been considered.)

Lorraine Bracco, left, and Ray Liotta starred in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’.

(Warner Bros. / Kobal / Shutterstock)

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

“It has nothing to do with you personally. And then the dream falls into place,” he said. “I was just looking forward to working with people who wanted to play as deeply as I did. Because I really believe it’s a game, but I believe what sets someone apart is that they engages more deeply and more fully than perhaps other actors.

Liotta also made this film in New York when her mother was dying of cancer, which shaped her memory of the role.

“My mom lived in New Jersey,” he told The Times. “So every weekend I would go home. She died while filming. Making this movie and this character was a dream come true. But I have mixed feelings about it.

Severe accents aside, Liotta grew up in upper-class Union, NJ, as the eldest of two children. Her father was Italian and her mother Scottish and Irish, and they ran an auto parts business and later tried to run for political office.

He described his upbringing as “regular, normal” and considered himself a sweetie who “never wanted to get in trouble”.

He became an actor by chance when he had to replace a sick classmate in a sixth-grade play and felt like “a nervous wreck.” And because he was too small to be good at basketball in high school, he joined the drama club.

While in college, he told The Times, a pretty girl at the enrollment asked him if he was going out for the play that night, and the next thing he knew , is that he was auditioning for “Cabaret”.

“I had no idea how to do this stuff,” he said. “But my father’s philosophy was that you should try everything, see what’s out there and decide what you like. And if you make a fool of yourself, who cares?

A man poses for a portrait, his head resting on his hand.

The Times photographed Ray Liotta at the Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica in 2015.

(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

In 2005, Liotta won a Primetime Emmy Award for a guest role as Charlie Metcalf on NBC’s “ER.” Most recently, he played a dirty cop in NBC’s crime drama ‘Shades of Blue’ and starred in the ‘Sopranos’ prequel ‘The Many Saints of Newark’, Netflix’s ‘Marriage Story’ and upcoming thriller series. policemen Apple TV + “Black Bird”. .”

According to Deadline, Liotta had just finished work on “Cocaine Bear” directed by Elizabeth Banks and was set to star in the Working Title movie “The Substance” alongside Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley.

Liotta is survived by his fiancée, Jacy Nittolo, and his daughter Karsen.

Times editor Christi Carras contributed to this report.

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