Ray Liotta: Scorsese and De Niro lead tributes to the late Goodfellas actor

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Image source, Getty Images
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Director Martin Scorsese with Goodfellas stars Lorraine Bracco and Ray Liotta in 2012

Hollywood director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro have led the tributes to Goodfellas star Ray Liotta, who died this week aged 67.

Scorsese, who directed both in the 1990 gangster crime film, called Liotta a "uniquely gifted" and "courageous" performer.

The late actor is best known for his portrayal of mobster Henry Hill in the film, opposite De Niro and Joe Pesci.

De Niro said: "I was very saddened to learn of Ray's passing."

"He is way too young to have left us," he added, in a statement shared to US media.

Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic at the age of 67, it was confirmed on Thursday.

The US star had been on location filming the movie Dangerous Waters, his publicist Jennifer Allen said.

His fiancée Jacy Nittolo was on location at the time of his death, Ms Allen added.

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Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino and Joe Pesci all appeared in the mobster movie

Scorsese said he was "absolutely shocked and devastated" by the news and that he would always be proud of their work together.

"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," the filmmaker explained.

"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."

Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen Friedman Hill in Goodfellas, said she was "shattered" to hear the news of her former co-star's death.

She shared a photo of them both on Twitter, saying being with him had been the best part of making the film.

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While best known for Goodfellas, Liotta also appeared in the heart rending 1989 film Field of Dreams, playing a dead baseball player who came back to life to play in a game at Kevin Costner's character's new playing field.

Reacting to the news, Costner tweeted he was "devastated".

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Liotta got his big break playing ex-convict Ray Sinclair in 1986 black comedy Something Wild, getting a Golden Globe nomination for that role, before going to star in the 1988 film Dominick and Eugene, about the strained relationship between twins with very different characters.

Actor and comedian Seth Rogen wrote online that working with him, on the 2009 dark comedy Observe and Report, had been "one of the great joys of my career".

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More recently, Jennifer Lopez aka singer J-Lo acted opposite Liotta in the US TV crime series Shades of Blue.

"Ray was the epitome of a tough guy who was all mushy on the inside," she wrote. "I guess that's what made him such a compelling actor to watch."

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And another superstar singer, Ed Sheeran paid tribute to Liotta, with the actor having appeared in the music video for his and Rudimental's 2014 collaboration, Bloodstream.

"I got to work with him on the Bloodstream music video with [music video director] Emil Nava, and got hung out with him at gigs," posted the English singer-songwriter.

"He was such a fun guy, so so sweet, and I loved being around him. Goodfellas will always be my favourite movie."

Batman regret

By the 90s, Liotta was starring in Unlawful Entry, Cop Land and Corrina, Corrina with Whoopi Goldberg.

Last year he starred in the Sopranos prequel film The Many Saints Of Newark,having turned down a role in the original series.

The New Jersey-born actor said in 2016 that he regretted turning down the chance to audition for Tim Burton's Batman film.

"When I did my first movie, Tim Burton was getting ready to do Batman and he was interested in me because he wanted it to be edgy and real.

"I thought, 'Batman? That's a stupid idea', even though he had just done one of my favourite movies of all time, Beetlejuice. So yes, I regret not auditioning for that'."

He also played lawyer Jay Marotta in the critically acclaimed 2019 film Marriage Story, which starred Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple whose relationship was breaking up. Laura Dern won a best supporting actress Oscar for playing a lawyer in the film.

The actor had recently finished working on the 2023 film The Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

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Image caption,
Liotta, pictured in 1980

Liotta also narrated documentary series The Making Of The Mob, and appeared in several music videos including David Guetta's song Lovers On The Sun.

Liotta leaves his daughter Karsen, who he shares with his ex-wife Michelle Grace, and his fiancée.