Ray Liotta: Goodfellas actor had boyish radiance to puncture the toughness | Peter Bradshaw


Focus / Culture 43 Views comments

The actor, who has died at the age of 67, was rightly best known for his staggering, swaggering turn in Scorsese’s mob classic – but other roles added further grit, humour and heart

I first noticed Ray Liotta in Something Wild, the 80s “yuppie nightmare” movie with Wall Street wimp Jeff Daniels getting way out of his depth with the seductively impulsive Audrey played by Melanie Griffith. He has a very uneasy moment with her violent-criminal ex-husband, played by Liotta who – without revealing his own history with Audrey — insidiously asks him how she is in bed and boorishly remarks: “She looks like she could fuck you right in half.” That line reveals how close he is to violence. And he did the scary Liotta laugh, eyes crinkling and the jaw opening up about eleven inches like some new breed of raptor.

But it was only four years later that Liotta became a legend – though somehow without ever quite becoming an A-list star – with his staggering performance as wiseguy and future stoolie Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and like everyone else I thrilled first to his incredible voice with its resonant syrup-gravel: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster …” Liotta’s line there was the voiceover equivalent of Mario Lanza, and actually all of his voiceovers were rich, glorious arias of longing for the great days when a gangster really was special.

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