Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have led tributes to Goodfellas star Ray Liotta, who has died aged 67. Scorsese, who directed both actors in the 1990 film, praised the “uniquely gifted” and “courageous” performer, adding he would “always be proud” of the work they had done together.
Liotta’s publicist Jennifer Allen confirmed the actor had died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming his latest movie Dangerous Waters. His fiancee Jacy Nittolo was on location at the time of his death, Ms Allen said.
Liotta is best known for his portrayal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas opposite De Niro and Joe Pesci. “I’m absolutely shocked and devastated by the sudden, unexpected death of Ray Liotta,” Scorsese said, in a statement shared with US media.
“He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor. Playing Henry Hill in Goodfellas was a tall order, because the character had so many different facets, so many complicated layers, and Ray was in almost every scene of a long, tough shoot.
“He absolutely amazed me, and I’ll always be proud of the work we did together on that picture. My heart goes out to his loved ones, and it aches for his loss, way too early.”
De Niro said in a statement shared with US media: “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too young to have left us.”
Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen Friedman Hill in Goodfellas, said she was “shattered” to hear the “terrible news” about her former co-star. Sharing a photo of them on Twitter, she added: “I can be anywhere in the world and people will come up and tell me their favourite 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.”
Before Goodfellas Liotta found fame playing ex-con Ray Sinclair in 1986 black comedy Something Wild, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. He went on to star as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1989 film Field Of Dreams and then the gangster epic.
His Field Of Dreams co-star Kevin Costner recalled his “God-given” baseball scene in the film in his own tribute to Liotta. Costner starred as farmer Ray Kinsella in the 1989 film, which was nominated for three Oscars.
Sharing a video clip of the classic scene to Instagram, Costner wrote: “Devastated to hear the news of Ray Liotta’s passing. While he leaves an incredible legacy, he’ll always be ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson’ in my heart.”
Jennifer Lopez also said that she felt “lucky” to have worked and learned from Liotta on the crime drama TV series Shades Of Blue, in which they starred from 2016 to 2018. The pop superstar and actor paid tribute by sharing a series of photos on Instagram of them together, along with a clip of the pair acting out an emotional scene during the show.
Liotta was the adopted son of a town clerk and auto-parts shop owner, who insisted he never contemplated acting while growing up in Newark, New Jersey. After graduating he moved to New York City and worked as a barman until he was cast in soap opera Another World in 1980.
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