Legendary actor Ray Liotta, the man who “always wanted to be a gangster” in his breakout role in Martin Scorsese‘s Goodfellas, has died suddenly at the age of 67. Liotta had been on-site in the Dominican Republic filming for Dangerous Waters when he passed away in his sleep as first reported by Deadline. His tragic death cuts short a recent career renaissance that had seen him back in the limelight for the first time in years. He leaves behind a daughter and a fiancée.
Before he became the gangster that everyone knew and loved, Liotta had spent his time on television working on series such as Our Family Honor and Casablanca, though he picked up his first major award recognition for Something Wild in 1987. He then had an iconic turn as the Black Sox Scandal-tainted “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the baseball classic Field of Dreams, helping Kevin Costner‘s Ray find closure with his father. As memorable as that role itself is, it would’ve been a suitable breakout for Liotta, but he immediately one-upped it with Goodfellas. Starring as Henry Hill opposite fellow Hollywood tough guys Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Liotta fit right in as the young gangster growing into the life of crime and thus made the perfect narrator and focal point for the story. Though he never won anything for the role, it came to be his defining turn.
Following that, Liotta counted roles in Narc and Revolver as some of his most memorable. He’d finally get his first Primetime Emmy win in 2005, albeit from a bit of an unexpected place. As a guest actor on the hit medical drama ER, Liotta wowed audiences once again as ex-convict and alcoholic Charlie Metcalf who looked to reconnect with his son in the final minutes of his life.
More recently, Liotta was beginning to re-enter the public eye thanks to a strong return in The Many Saints of Newark and Marriage Story, which garnered him and the rest of the ensemble an Indie Spirit Award. He had actually started reappearing in television series in a major way too, with roles in Shades of Blue, Hanna, and the upcoming Apple TV+ series Black Bird. In the pipeline, he also has Elizabeth Banks‘ Cocaine Bear which he finished filming on, the aforementioned Dangerous Waters, and an executive producer role on the A&E docuseries Five Families, which would’ve reintroduced him to the gangster lifestyle through New York’s prominent crime families. April 29, 1992, The Substance, and El Tonto were also on the way with him involved.
Liotta tailored his Goodfellas role into a long, fruitful, and incredibly impressive career. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.