The NY Daily News has a great article by reporters Rachel Maresca and Philip Caulfield, who have collected a surprising list — reprinted below — of things you (probably) don’t know about GOODFELLAS. The film has been called “one of the most quoted, influential, enjoyable and endlessly revisited movies of all time.”
Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, Ray Liotta as Henry Hill and Robert De Niro as James Conway in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas.” The filmmakers are celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Maresca and Caulfield write:
We took care of that thing for ya.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of “Goodfellas” this year, the Daily News has compiled a list of 25 things every movie nut should know about the classic gangster flick, which is being honored on the closing night of The Tribeca Film Festival Saturday.
To celebrate, the cast of the Martin Scorsese movie will reunite and participate in a sit-down conversation hosted by Jon Stewart.
The violent, profane and often funny film, based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family,” featured several cameos by the story’s real-life characters, and is revered by movie fans for its colorful dialogue and memorable lines.
Now go home and get your shinebox . . .
1. Several Hollywood A-listers were mentioned for the role of Henry Hill, including Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin and Cruise’s “Top Gun” co-star Val Kilmer, who sent in a tape of himself playing the character, “Goodfellas” producer Irwin Winkler revealed to Playboy recently.
2. Author Nicholas Pileggi didn’t return director Martin Scorsese’s initial call about making his 1986 book “Wiseguy” into a movie because he thought someone was pulling his leg. “I didn’t believe it when Marty left a message. I thought it was my friend David Denby, the film critic, winding me up. So I just ignored him,” Pileggi told The Guardian in 2013. Scorsese eventually got Pileggi’s attention by reaching out to his wife, Nora Ephron.
3. Ray Liotta didn’t meet Henry Hill until after the movie wrapped. According to Hill, Scorsese insisted on keeping the two apart. “He didn’t want me to influence him whatsoever,” he once told an interviewer. Robert De Niro, however, met with Hill and endlessly quizzed him for insights into his character, Jimmy Conway, who was based on mobster James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke.
Robert De Niro as James Conway sitting in restaurant booth with Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in GOODFELLAS.
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill sitting with Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill at a nightclub in GOODFELLAS.
4. Instead, to get into character, Liotta listened to hours upon hours of interviews Pileggi taped with Hill while writing “Wiseguy.” “Henry Hill was eating potato chips the whole time . . . it (was) just a horrible noise,” Liotta recalled to a radio interviewer in 2014.
5. Both of Scorsese’s parents are in the film. His mom, Catherine, plays Joe Pesci’s character’s mother, while his father, Charles, plays Vinnie, the old mobster whom Paulie warns about putting too many onions in the tomato sauce in the prison dinner scene. Charles died in 1993, while Catherine died in 1997.
Martin Scorsese’s father, Charles Scorsese, played Vinnie, an aging mobster who gets a little heavy-handed with the onions in his tomato sauce in the prison dinner scene.
Catherine Scorsese, the director’s mother, as Tommy DeVito’s mother.
6. In the scene where Henry and Karen Hill are discussing the witness protection program, the prosecutor they are speaking to is Ed McDonald, the actual federal prosecutor who put Hill in the witness protection program. McDonald, now in private practice, told the Wall Street Journal in 2008 that all of his lines were improvised, including the famous, “Don’t give me the ‘babe in the woods’ routine, Karen.”
7. “Goodfellas” was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won only one, a Best Supporting Actor trophy for Joe Pesci.
8. Pesci’s acceptance speech was just five words: “It’s my privilege, thank you.”
Lorraine Bracco (l. with James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in 2000.)
9. Lorraine Bracco turned down the chance to play mob wife Carmela on the HBO series “The Sopranos” because she’d already played a mob wife Karen Hill in “Goodfellas.” “I said, ‘Look, I don’t think I should play Carmela because I did it, I did it in a Scorsese movie, I got an Oscar nomination. I really don’t think I’m going to bring so much to this for you that I haven’t done already,” she recently told HuffPost Live.
Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in the classic 1990 mobster flick.
10. Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito is based on Lucchese family hit man Thomas DeSimone, aka “Two-Gun Tommy” or “Tommy D.” While Pesci is only about 5-foot-4, DeSimone was actually a hulking 6-foot-2 in real life. Describing Tommy’s death in the film, Henry Hill says: “They even shot Tommy in the face so his mother couldn’t give him an open coffin at the funeral.” In reality, DeSimone vanished in 1979 and his body was never found. He was 28.
11. According to “Wiseguy,” DeSimone did in fact pistol whip William (Billy Batts) Bentvena to death after Batts ribbed him about being a shoeshine boy, but the insult and the murder occurred a few weeks apart. During the gruesome attack, DeSimone smashed the butt of his .38 revolver into Batts’ face and screamed, “Shine these f— shoes!”
12. The famous “Funny how?” scene was inspired by an experience Joe Pesci had working at a restaurant and mob hangout as a young man. As Liotta and other castmates tell it, Pesci got put on the spot after he quipped that one mobster was “a funny guy.”
13. Chuck Low, who plays the pestering wig salesman Morrie Kessler, was Robert De Niro’s real estate consultant before appearing in the film.
14. De Niro’s character, Jimmy Conway, was based on James Burke, a top associate of the Lucchese crime family nicknamed “Jimmy the Gent” because of his dapper appearance. As depicted in the movie, Burke masterminded the 1978 Lufthansa robbery, which ripped off nearly $6 million from a JFK cargo hold and was the largest robbery in the U.S. at the time. He and Hill were also players in the 1979 Boston College point-shaving scandal.
In “Wiseguy,” Hill describes Burke’s love of stealing: “If you ever offered Jimmy a billion dollars, he’d turn you down and then try to figure out how to steal it from you.” He died of lung cancer in a Buffalo hospital in 1996 while serving a 20-to-life sentence for murder.
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway in GOODFELLAS.
15. In the famous introduction scene, Fat Andy, aka “Moe Black’s brother,” is played by Louis Eppolito, one of the notorious NYPD “Mafia Cops.” As a detective in the 1980s and early ’90s, Eppolito — whose father, uncle and cousins were made guys in the Gambino family — secretly worked for the mob, filtering tips and information that eventually led to several murders. Along with Stephen Caracappa, he was convicted of racketeering, murder and conspiracy in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison.
16. Sonny Bunz, the beleaguered Bamboo Lounge owner who gets a bottle cracked over his head, was played by Anthony Borgese, a Brooklyn-bred actor who uses the stage name Tony Darrow. As a young man, Borgese worked in the real Bamboo Lounge in Canarsie, where Hill, Burke and DeSimone hung out.
17. Queens native Christopher Serrone said playing young Henry put a giant target on his back during his teen years. “Every kid in my neighborhood wanted to be the guy who beat up the gangster kid from Goodfellas. It was tough,” Serrone, now in his late 30s, told the Daily Mail recently. “I took my share and gave my share.”
18. Nearly four decades later, the Lufthansa robbery is still being prosecuted in New York’s courts. In January 2014, Vincent Asaro, a 78-year-old Bonanno family capo, was nabbed in an FBI sweep and charged with plotting the 64-minute heist with Jimmy Burke and Henry Hill. Asaro isn’t depicted in “Goodfellas,” but he was in the room when the real Tommy DeSimone pumped a bullet into Spider’s foot. He took the bleeding kid to get patched up.
Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in GOODFELLAS.
19. The movie’s second-to-last shot shows Pesci firing a pistol point-blank at the screen. It’s a reference to the ending of the 1903 silent film “The Great Train Robbery,” where one of the bandits does the same thing.
20. In the final scene, De Niro’s defense attorney, who says the line “Mr. Hill, you know everything about being a rat,” is played by Eddie Hayes, a legendary New York mob lawyer who was the inspiration for the slick-talking attorney in Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities.”
21. Frankie Carbone, who is found hanging from a hook in a refrigerated meat truck, was played by Frank Sivero. In recent years, Sivero has filed a handful of lawsuits accusing people ripping off the character. Later year, he went after “The Simpsons” for allegedly stealing his likeness for a Springfield mobster, while another suit targeted a Southern California deli for hawking a “Frankie Carbone” sandwich using his photo.
22. The exact number is in dispute, but it’s generally believed that the “f-word” is said between 300-320 times in the movie. However, another Scorsese flick, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is said to be Hollywood’s F-bomb Don, with 544, according to a Slate tally.
23. In the scene where Tommy shoots Spider in the foot, the drunk mobster waves his smoking revolver and shouts “Take him to Ben Casey!” as Spider writhes in pain on the floor. Ben Casey was the titular doctor of a hit TV show that ran in the early ’60s.
24. While the movie has a reputation of being a bloody whack-a-thon, only five character deaths are depicted on screen, including Stacks Edwards, played by a then little-known Samuel L. Jackson.
25. Henry Hill died on June 12, 2012, at the age of 69. “His heart gave out,” his girlfriend said at the time. Two years earlier, he’d confided to a reporter that he never stopped feeling like a marked man. “There’s always that chance that some young buck wants to make a name for themselves,” Hill said in 2010. “I never thought I’d reach this wonderful age. I’m just grateful for being alive.”
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