Ray Liotta, the actor known for his roles in “Field of Dreams” and Martin Scorsese’s mob classic “Goodfellas,” has died. He was 67.
“Ray was working on a project in the Dominican Republic called ‘Dangerous Waters’ when he passed away. He died in his sleep. He is survived by his daughter, Karsen, and his fiancée, Jacy Nittolo,” his publicist Jennifer Allen told Media.
Born in Newark, N.J., Liotta was the adopted son of Alfred and Mary Liotta, who also adopted a daughter, Linda.
He attended Union High School, where he excelled in sports, and then attended the University of Miami. He studied theater and participated in his first play, “Cabaret”.
After graduating from college, Liotta moved to New York City, where he landed work in commercials and was cast as Joey Perrini in the daytime soap opera “Another World,” in which he appeared from 1978 to 1981.
His performance as crazed ex-con Ray Sinclair in Jonathan Demme’s 1986 film “Something Wild” proved to be a breakthrough role for the actor.
Liotta followed with an acclaimed performance as a baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the blockbuster “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner.
His most memorable role, perhaps, was as real-life mobster Henry Hill in the 1990 film “Goodfellas,” which placed him alongside heavy hitters, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
Lorraine Bracco, who co-starred as Liotta’s wife in “Goodfellas,” paid tribute to him Thursday.
“I am completely shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray,” Bracco said in a tweet. “I can be anywhere in the world and people come up and tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas. Then they always ask me what the best part of making that movie was. My answer has always been the same… Ray Liotta.”
I am utterly shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray.
I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas. Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same…Ray Liotta. pic.twitter.com/3gNjJFTAne
— Lorraine Bracco (@Lorraine_Bracco) May 26, 2022
When asked by The Guardian in 2021 why he never worked with Scorsese again given the director’s propensity to use some of the same actors in different projects, Liotta replied, “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. But I” would love.”
Not that he didn’t find plenty of work over the years.
Liotta’s numerous film and TV credits include “John Q,” “Blow,” “Operation Dumbo Drop,” “Hannibal,” “Wild Hogs” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
Most recently, Liotta narrated the television documentary series “The Making of the Mob” and starred in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the prequel film to the hit television series “The Sopranos.”
He played a lot of tough guys, but that wasn’t Liotta’s real personality.
“I’ve never been in a fight at all, except during sports, and that’s just shoving and silly kid stuff,” he told People magazine last year.
“Ray was the epitome of a tough guy who was all sappy inside… I guess that’s what made him such an appealing actor to watch,” said Jennifer Lopez, who starred alongside Liotta in the TV crime series, “Shades of Blue.”
“We enjoyed doing our scenes together and I felt lucky to have him there to work with and learn from. Like all artists, he was complicated, sincere, honest, and very emotional,” she wrote Thursday on Instagram. “As a raw nerve, he was so approachable and so in touch in his performance and I will always remember our time together fondly. We lost a great one today.”
Liotta was currently involved in multiple projects, according to his IMDB profile.
Among them was “Cocaine Bear,” a thriller directed by actress Elizabeth Banks about what happens after a drug dealer’s cocaine goes missing in a plane crash and is eaten by a bear. The film is scheduled for release next year.
“When any actor of Ray’s caliber trusts you as a director, it’s a gift,” Banks said on Instagram. “Ray’s respect for me as a director, actress, and artist, as his boss on set, meant everything to me because if you can direct Henry Hill, you can do anything in this town. I’m so grateful to Ray Liotta. bless my life may he rest in peace.”
Liotta’s profile sank in recent decades as A-list projects mostly eluded him. But he never stopped working. And in his interview with People, Liotta seemed optimistic about the next phase of his career.
“It’s weird how this business works because I’ve definitely had an up-and-down career,” he added. “For some reason, I’ve been busier this year than in all the years I’ve been doing this. And I still feel like I’m not there yet. I just think there’s a lot more to it.”