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The actor Ray Liotta has died. According to his publicist, Jennifer Allen, Liotta was in the Dominican Republic shooting the movie Dangerous Waters, when he died in his sleep. He was 67 years old.
The actor is perhaps best known for his role as Henry Hill in the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas, where he helped shape the idea of a gangster movie for years to come. The movie was based on the non-fiction book Wise Guy by Nicholas Pileggi. To prepare for the role, Liotta told WHYY’s Fresh Air that he sat in his mother’s car and listened to hours and hours of tape of Hill being interviewed.
“And the biggest thing that I learned from it was just how casual they were — how casual Henry was about what happened,” said Liotta. “It was just like he was telling a story of what his kids were doing and how they played in a park, except they were talking about, you know, people getting killed or beaten.”
Liotta was born in 1954 in Newark, N.J. He grew up in nearby Union, after he was adopted by the Liotta family. He started acting at the University of Miami, where he majored in drama. After graduation, he worked small roles in various commercials and TV shows, but his breakout turn was in 1986’s Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme.
From there, he played the ghost of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, after which he got cast in Goodfellas.
His Goodfellas co-star, Lorraine Bracco, remembered him on Twitter, writing “I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite 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.”
Though Henry Hill was Liotta’s most iconic role, he continued to work prolifically throughout his life, in movies such as Corrina, Corrina, Cop Land, and The Rat Pack.
In 2002, he starred in the hit video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as Tommy Vercetti, a mobster who rises up the ranks of the game’s criminal empire. In 2018, he told late-night hosts Desus & Mero that he didn’t know much about the series and wasn’t a gamer. “All I do is curse and call people whores,” he joked.
In 2005, Liotta won an Emmy for a guest spot on the hospital drama ER, playing Charlie Metcalf, an alcoholic ex-convict who tries to reconnect with his son.
More recently, Liotta brought his signature intensity to Shades of Blue, where he starred opposite Jennifer Lopez. The crime show ran for three seasons between 2016 and 2018.
Liotta is survived by one daughter, and was recently engaged to Jacy Nittolo.