RIP Ray Liotta: Goodbye to a Goodfella

As far back as we can remember, we always wanted to be Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. Nobody could laugh like Ray. His onscreen cackle, a total mask of perverse joy so infectious, just the sight of a still frame could cause instant hysteria. Except for maybe today, as we’ve learned that Liotta, 67, has died in his sleep while filming in the Dominican Republic.

The Jersey boy was known for his piercing blue eyes and tough-guy demeanor first witnessed in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and later cemented by his turn as mobster-turned-rat Henry Hill in Martin Scorcese’s iconic masterpiece of cinema. His good looks belied his razor’s edge, a deathly stare that could make anyone squirm in their seats. But that ability to go from icy calm to sudden danger made him typecast as a villain, a label he spent his whole career trying to avoid.

It cost him a few roles. He famously turned down the part of Ralph Cifaretto in The Sopranos (among others). But after a quiet decade, Liotta began mounting a much-deserved comeback, appearing in small but vital roles in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, The Many Saints of Newark, and Steven Soderbergh’s tightly-woven yarn No Sudden Move. These reminders of Liotta’s unique and startling presence led to a spate of high-profile roles in soon-to-be-released films like Cocaine Bear, April 29, 1992, and an untitled Charlie Day project.

Goodfellas co-star Robert DeNiro said in a statement, “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too young to have left us.”

We couldn’t agree more. Ray Liotta, you’ll always be one of the Goodfellas.

Cover Photo: Warner Bros.