From ‘Goodfellas’ to ‘Field of Dreams,’ Ray Liotta’s movie roles fulfilled a ‘Wild’ promise
By Brian Lowry, CNN
Ray Liotta actually enjoyed a long and varied career, but it’s perhaps appropriate that his screen legacy will be bookended by two of the mercurial tough-guy roles in which he excelled, in “Something Wild” and “The Many Saints of Newark,” 35 years apart.
Liotta, who died suddenly at the age of 67, started out in the soap opera “Another World,” and most recently has again been extremely active in television and particularly streaming. After starring as a corrupt cop opposite Jennifer Lopez in the NBC drama “Shades of Blue,” which ended in 2018, recent roles have included Amazon’s “Hanna” and Apple TV+’s upcoming “Black Bird,” which premieres in July.
Still, his filmography was heavily defined by a run of memorable movies early in his career, highlighted by Martin Scorsese’s mob epic “Goodfellas,” but also the baseball fantasy “Field of Dreams.”
A look back at some of Liotta’s key films:
“Something Wild” (1986): Liotta had a breakthrough supporting role in director Jonathan Demme’s comedic thriller, playing the psychotic ex-husband of an alluring woman (Melanie Griffith), who drags an ordinary and understandably befuddled guy (Jeff Daniels) into a crazed adventure. Filled with menace and edge, Liotta’s performance was, in hindsight, a significant promise of what was to come.
“Dominick and Eugene” (1988): Liotta played a medical student looking after his brother (Tom Hulce), a person with an intellectual disability, and forced to make decisions about his future in this sensitive drama.
“Field of Dreams” (1989): Heeding a disembodied voice, Kevin Costner builds a baseball field on his Iowa farm, brings the late baseball star Shoeless Joe Jackson (Liotta) out of the corn stalks and gave grown men permission to cry in theaters, in a movie whose popularity has withstood the test of time. (In addition to Major League Baseball’s recent game devoted to it, a “Field of Dreams” series is also being produced for NBC’s Peacock service.)
“Goodfellas” (1990): Liotta starred as mobster Henry Hill in Scorsese’s exceedingly violent, fact-based look at the mob and his character’s downfall, in a genre-defining film that also featured Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci as the sort of wiseguys you definitely didn’t want to be accused of laughing at.
“The Rat Pack” (1998): Liotta took a slightly different turn in this breezy HBO movie in which he portrayed Frank Sinatra at the height of his fame, carousing his way through Vegas — and hanging out with President Kennedy (William Petersen) — along with pals Dean Martin (Joe Mantegna), Sammy Davis Jr. (Don Cheadle) and Peter Lawford (Angus Macfadyen).
“The Many Saints of Newark” (2021): Revisiting the organized-crime neighborhood, Liotta appeared in a dual role as twin brothers in writer-producer David Chase’s prequel to “The Sopranos,” which looks at the history of the Moltisanti family, as well as the formative years of the young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini).
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