Marco Spagnoli

I intend to live forever. Or die trying...Groucho Marx

An old Interview with Ray Liotta

Goodfella Forever

Interview to Ray Liotta

By Marco Spagnoli

One of the Stars of last edition of Aruba Film Festival directed by Italian movie critic, Claudio Masenza, Ray Liotta has attended to a special screening of the restored version of ‘Goodfellas’ by Martin Scorsese, the movie that in 1990 revealed his talent worldwide “I didn’t see the movie in the twentytwo years.” Liotta says “and since I came to Caribbeans with my thirteen year old daughter and she never saw my work, I tought that experiencing the movie on the big screen was the best thing for her.” Points out the star of the upcoming movie produced by Brad Pitt Killing them softly directed by Andrew Dominik the was screened in competition in Cannes.  Liotta will be seen also later in the year in the drama The place beyond the pines along with Rayn Gosling, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne and Bradley Cooper. “My career has always been made of ups and downs. Maybe those two movies can help me to get a little ‘heat’ again.” 

How hard it’s watch yourself on screen?

Very hard. I pride myself of doing all the work is needed to be done. I’m pretty obsessive about playing pretend. The best thing of Goodfellas is that script, personality and director meet in a outstanding work.

Henry Hill, the character who inspired the role you played in Goodfellas, passed away last june. What was you relationship with him?

Marty Scorsese didn’t want me to meet him before we shoot the movie. We dealt with the screenwriter Nick Pileggi in order to get the story right. I had heard a lot of tapes with Henry Hill’s voice and Marty didn’t want that I’d get other influences apart from the ones in the script.

Did you ever meet him?

Yes, I did. Later on I was playing in a bowling alley in the Valley in Los Angeles and he was there too with his brother. He came to me, we spoke and he said he was flabbegasted they were making a movie about his life‘Thank you for not looking me as a scumbag.” He said at one point and I asked “Harry, have you seen the movie?”. It’s true he didn’t kill anybody, but he did a lot of pretty negative things such as cheating on his wife and turning against his friends. Few years ago I was having a brunch at Mexican restaurant on a sunday in Venice and I saw him against a tree just fucked up…drunk as a drunk can be. He recognized me and he said something I couldn’t undestand. That was the last time I saw him and it was really sad.

There’s a rumour about the possibily of making his story into a Tv Show. Do you think there’s room for other parts of this story to be explored?

I don’t know, I don’t think so. Maybe it could be a serie about a guy drunk as a skunk against a tree in Venice…maybe that’s a compelling story…I think the way we did it, it pretty says much at all.

Why do you think you’re often casted as the ‘bad guy’?

I don’t want to be ‘defensive’ about it, but I played a lot of ‘nice guys’. Maye it’s you, the audience to remember me mostly as the bad guy. I’ve done all different kind of movies…in fact, I must tell you the truth, as a person I’ve never been in a fight! Being a bad guy for me is more like a fantasy, because it’s something I’ve never done personally. I’ve done other things it’s just the people don’t remember them or didn’t see it. In Killing them softly I’m the nicest guy while Brad Pitt is the killer and everybody is trying to kill me…maybe the truth is that the movies where I played the bad guy are simply ‘more powerful’ than the others.

What makes you accept a role?

One tries to make the best decisions he can. Idealistically, for me, it’s all about the script. The screenplay is my bible. If the story is compelling you do it. Unfortunately Studios thinks in a very peculiar way and I feel sorry for the younger artists that want break in the business right now when there are all these superhero movies and they don’t have the independent sensibility they had before. Once an independent production was 3 million dollars, now it’s 20! Truth is that what I’ve done in Goodfellas can give the idea of what I could do now after twenty years of experience…but unfortunately opportunities don’t present themselves as much. I still feel I’m ‘underused’.

Apparently you turned down the role of Batman for Tim Burton’s movie…

Yes, because in those days nobody was doing superhero movies. Who was doing these type of roles? When they said ‘Batman’ I was thinking ‘I’m a serious actor, but when you see what playing a superhero has done for actors like Robert Downey Jr…me thinking I was a serious actor was probably pretty stupid.

In 1998 you played Frank Sinatra in a Tv movie…

I had turned down the role few times before because I was scared of what the people might think. Then I was convinced by my acting teacher who told me there are actors who are frightened by the impression they might have on an audience and actors who want to take a journey into a character no matter what. I tought about it and then, since I was from New Jersey too, I said…”well, let’s do it.” Sinatra was an intense character and I didn’t have to sing. There was a big premiere in Vegas with all these Sinatra’s friends like Quincy Jones and Angie Dickinson. They told me they liked it, but who really knows what people think.

What about the sphere surrounding the work of an actor?

I don’t care: I know there are lots of games to be played and things to be done, but I never had a publicist. 

What qualities do you like most in directors?

There’s nothing more exhilating than to be with a director who’s really passionate about make believe situations that has never been done before. I’ve been really fortunate with Marty, Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott…these people are really passionate about make believe stories and playing pretend, because this is really all what we do: playing cowboys and indians. Every good director leaves you alone, because they casted well and when they have something to say it’s all about the story not how an actor should play a character. I don’t like people who say “go faster, go slower’…this has nothing to do with directing the actors.

When did  you decide to become an actor?

I never wanted to act…I just had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. My father wanted me to go to a college, but my votes couldn’t get me into any. Luckily at that time I could enter the university of Miami where you needed just a pulse to get in there. I was just going to take liberal arts because I didn’t know what to do. I was in a line and behind me there was this cute girl who asked me if I was auditioning for the play. She was cute enough for me to go to the audition without knowing anything about acting of auditioning. They asked me to tell a sad story so I told them the story of my old dog Lucky who was just got hit by a car. Then they called me back to sing and dance because it turned out the audition was for a musical. All I know was from a musical I saw in Broadway once with my parents when we got there from Jersey. I gave the sheet music to the piano player and then I took it immediately back. He said “What you’re doing?” and I told him “I don’t know the words…” he was like “Do what you can, because without this paper I can’t play the music…” Actually I had the part in Cabaret.

What is your ‘dream’ now?

To work with Woody Allen in one of his movies. I could a comedy very well and my daughter thinks I’m very funny. If something I do sucks…she immediately would tell me.

What about some movies you’ve done that weren’t so good?

Hey, everyone has to support his family and make a living out of it. The business has changed so you have to make some movies that you are already sure they will go straight to video. George Clooney once said beautifully when somebody asked him about all his commercials in Europe and he said “Because the movies I like to do, don’t pay.”

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