"Goodfellas" star Ray Liotta dies at 67

The actor said in a 2021 interview about his career: "I still feel I'm not there yet"

By Alison Stine

Published May 26, 2022 2:13PM (EDT)

Ray Liotta at the 22nd Annual Newport Beach Film Festival at The Balboa Bay Club And Resort on October 24, 2021 in Newport Beach, California (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)
Ray Liotta at the 22nd Annual Newport Beach Film Festival at The Balboa Bay Club And Resort on October 24, 2021 in Newport Beach, California (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

Ray Liotta, star of the 1990 Martin Scorsese film "Goodfellas" has died, NBC News and others have reported. According to his publicist, Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was in the process of filming a movie called "Dangerous Waters."

Liotta was 67. No cause of death has yet been reported.

Liotta played Henry Hill, a real-life mobster, in "Goodfellas," which was his best-known role and the one that shot him to fame. He "lobbied hard for the role," as TMZ wrote. Though Tom Cruise was apparently considered for the part, Liotta said it was his "vulnerability" that won Scorsese over. He turned down a role in 1989's "Batman" (he was allegedly a top choice of Tim Burton's) to play Henry Hill. He also later turned down a role in "The Sopranos," not wanting to be typecast.

Liotta's vulnerability is on display in other roles, like the soulful Shoeless Joe Jackson in "Field of Dreams." With his distinctive scarred face and searing, light eyes, Liotta radiated intensity and played psychopathic characters multiple times, as in "Blow," "Something Wild," "Cop Land" and "The Place Beyond the Pines." Liotta was frequently cast as cops. 

But beyond his maniac, often chilling roles, Liotta's performances have a depth to them: of emotion, of hurt.

"GoodFellas" publicity still with stars Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, & Joe Pesci (Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)He won a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for his portrayal of Frank Sinatra in the 1988 TV movie "The Rat Pack." He also appeared as Tommy Vercetti in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," which he said in interviews he had never played.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Liotta was adopted when he was 6 months old. He also has an adopted younger sister. He moved to New York City after college where he had studied theater (he appeared on Broadway in 2004). He worked as a bartender and landed his first major role on the soap opera "Another World," appearing on the show from 1978-1981, when he quit to move to Los Angeles and try his luck in the film industry.

For his first major film, which he appeared in when he was 30, 1986's "Something Wild," he received a Golden Globe nomination. He won a Primetime Emmy for a guest role on "ER," and was nominated for dozens of other awards.

In 2021, Liotta said in an interview with "People": "It's weird how this business works, because I've definitely had a career that's up and down . . . And I still feel I'm not there yet. I just think there's a lot more."

Liotta leaves behind a daughter. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Jacy Nittolo.

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Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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Goodfellas Movies Obituary Ray Liotta