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Martin Scorsese on Ray Liotta in Goodfellas: ‘The new guy never missed a beat’

The great director remembers the actor’s astonishing performance in his gangster classic – and the day the distraught star had to play a euphoric scene right after receiving tragic news

We had some problems trying to get Goodfellas made. It came at a low moment in my career and the studios were not exactly eager to work with me. And it was a big production, with locations all over New York and many speaking parts. We also needed to find just the right actor to play the lead, Henry Hill. The part required a rare combination of qualities. He needed to be dangerous. He needed to be disarming. He needed to be vulnerable. Within the context of the world we were dealing with, he had to be something close to an innocent, the guy who was always there, witnessing everything, along for the ride. And, it goes without saying, he needed to look and act like he might have come out of that world.

Eventually, it came down to a handful of names. One of them was Ray Liotta.

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