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Tidbits from the Tribeca ‘Goodfellas’ Reunion

2698239bl News reports  from the Tribeca Film Festival’s  GOODFELLAS reunion include new revelations about the making of the film and funny stories from the q&a after the show, moderated by Jon Stewart. 

Tomris Laffly’s article in Indiewire’s  Thompson on Hollywood blog— excerpted below — sets the stage. She writes: “Martin Scorsese’s seminal gangster film GOODFELLAS –which is widely deemed his finest directorial achievement –celebrated its 25th anniversary Saturday on the closing night of the Tribeca Film Festival, as the movie’s star and festival co-founder Robert De Niro joined the cast on stage.

Martin Scorsese and cast on set of 'Goodfellas'
Martin Scorsese and cast on set of GOODFELLAS.

“When narrator Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) declared ‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be gangster’ at the start of the unveiling of a gorgeous re-mastered 4K print of GOODFELLAS, the packed Beacon Theater erupted in enthusiastic applause. Many others followed throughout the screening as the huge crowd nostalgically revisited the film and its most famous moments. Predictably, the ‘Funny how’ scene between Hill and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) nabbed the most rapturous laughter and clapping.

“The screening was also an affirmation of Scorsese’s authentic and energetic depiction of amoral and despicable behavior. The debate that erupted at the opening of Scorsese’s non-didactic yet cautionary and often laugh-out-loud funny take on gangsters was not dissimilar from the reaction to last year’s instantly controversial WOLF OF WALL STREET, as naysayers accused the filmmaker of glorifying excessive behavior. GOODFELLAS famously scored one the worst test screening results in Warner Bros. history, but went on to earn critical acclaim and six Oscar nominations (with one win for Joe Pesci). Now it’s a classic.”

Laffly is referring to the first audience preview screening held in Orange County in 1990. Producer Irwin Winkler remembers the events in a Playboy interview, which describes a far different reaction to the opening of the film than the enthusiastic applause at Tribeca screening:

“Once the GOODFELLAS sneak preview got rolling, things went haywire, right from the hero’s first line of narration: ‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.’

“’People started running out of that theater like the place was on fire,’ recalls Winkler. ‘We had 38 walkouts alone after the scene where Joe Pesci’s character, Tommy DeVito, knifes the body of Billy Batts in the trunk of a car. And that was just the beginning of the movie. The screening didn’t go badly. It was disastrous.

“So disastrous that, as the movie’s dark humor and merry mayhem of stabbings, shootings and cocaine-fueled freak-outs piled up, 32 more people fled the theater. After the preview, which De Fina called ‘scary,’ studio execs read a barrage of audience reaction cards typified by one from a dissatisfied customer who’d scrawled ‘F*ck you’ all over his. ‘It upset a lot of people,’ says Scorsese. ‘People weren’t prepared for the mixture of humor and violence, the lifestyle, the attitude.’” Read the full interview with Winkler here, in Stephen Rebello’s article, which is subtitled “The Making of the Mafia’s Ultimate Home Movie.”

The NY Daily News reports Scorsese’s recollection of the reception of the film: “It’s hard to believe in hindsight, but GOODFELLAS wasn’t well received by everyone upon its release. ‘There was this owner of a restaurant that I used to eat at that said we’re not allowed in there anymore,’ said Scorsese, hinting that the place was an Italian establishment. ‘Because apparently we denigrated a certain ethnic group.’ ”

Closing+Night+Screening+Goodfellas+2015+Tribeca+qlBe6GE5jhelPaul Sorvino, Debi Mazar, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco and Kevin Corrigan attend the closing night screening of “Goodfellas” Saturday during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre.

Laffly continues her Indiewire coverage from Tribeca: “The biggest treat of the night was the reunion panel after the screening, moderated by Jon Stewart, with Scorsese’s co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi as well as actors De Niro, Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. Stewart’s questions could have been sharper and more fine-tuned, yet the Q&A session did yield choice and little-known behind-the-scenes stories.

Here are eight highlights:

1. No-shows Joe Pesci and Martin Scorsese greeted the audience in style.

Currently shooting his new film THE SILENCE in Taipei with Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, Scorsese saluted the crowd before the screening with a pre-taped video message… Scorsese  revealed that the music in GOODFELLAS –from Tony Bennett to Darlene Love– represented the way his own life was musically scored. One of the best times they all had on set was during the breakfast scene with his mother (Catherine Scorsese, playing Tommy’s Mother): ‘There were only one or two lines that were written out. The rest was what it was like to be around my mom, Joe, Bob, and Ray. But we didn’t tell her about the body (in the trunk).’

Pesci’s pre-screening message was more concise. ‘Joe Pesci couldn’t be here, but he sent this email,’ said Robert De Niro, reading: ‘F*ck, f*ck, f*ckity, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck.’

‘I’ll translate,’ he went on. ‘Dear Bob, I am sorry I can’t be there. Love to all. Best, Joe.’

2. De Niro: ‘We feel connected when we get back together, as we are tonight.’
 

The Tribeca Film Festival co-founder’s sentiment was seconded by actor Paul Sorvino. ‘We sometimes run into each other. What happens is, you see each other 10 or 15 years later, and it is as if the time has not passed. Because we got to know each other so well at an emotional or spiritual level; and it never goes away.’

3. Running into Scorsese at the Venice Film Festival helped Ray Liotta to land the leading role.

‘I was the first person they met,’ the actor recalled, noting that De Niro recommended him and that it took a year to get it. ‘I think what sealed it is – I did a movie called DOMINICK AND EUGENE, which was at the Venice Film Festival. Marty was there with THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, walking across the lobby of the hotel. I went to him and said ‘Hey Marty, it’s me! I wanted to say hello!’ The way I said hello…it just seemed to happen.’

 

4. Nora Ephron helped to connect Martin Scorsese with her husband Nicholas Pileggi.

The author of the bestselling book WISEGUY (from which GOODFELLAS is adapted) said that Scorsese kept calling him, wanting to connect. ‘I was getting these pink slips that said: ‘Call Martin Scorsese.’ But I thought it was my friend David Denby (playing a trick), so I didn’t respond.’ Scorsese couldn’t figure it out, and finally called Pileggi’s wife Nora Ephron. ‘I got home that night and she said: ‘Are you crazy? Martin Scorsese is trying to reach you and you won’t call him back.’

goodfellas-quotes-hd-wallpaper-175. Henry Hill loved Ray Liotta’s portrayal.

Scorsese didn’t let Liotta talk to Henry Hill before the film was completed, thinking that his real persona would interfere with his portrayal. But after the movie, Liotta got a call to meet Hill in a Bowling Alley in the San Fernando Valley with his brother. ‘The first thing he said was: ‘Thanks for not making me look like a scumbag.’ And I said: ‘Did you see the movie?’
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6. Paul Sorvino almost quit the film, three days before shooting began.
Worried about not being able to find the spine of his character, Sorvino apparently called his manager three days before the shooting began (after he already spent four weeks in prep), asking him to get him out of it. ‘I am a poet, an opera singer, author, sculptor…none of it is gangster,’ the actor explained. ‘I was lost. And one day I was going to fix my tie and I saw this guy (referring to his image in the mirror), and I scared the hell out of me.’v30rx2qca7huq2a07. Lorraine Bracco got a little help from her background in creating Karen.
Although she didn’t know anyone in real life close to the character she portrayed or the women Karen hangs out with, Bracco said her upbringing was helpful. ‘I have an Italian father, but I have an English mother. So I learned a lot about being Italian from my dad. And we lived in a Jewish neighborhood, which helped to create Karen. I just did my homework. Being surrounded by a great director and crew and Ray… It was easy.’

8. Nick Pileggi on Martin Scorsese, perfectionist.
 

As tight-lipped De Niro was unwilling to tackle the question of what Scorsese would want to change in the film today if he could, Stewart turned the mic to Pileggi. Recalling the night of the film’s New York City premiere, he noted that Marty had many more editing ideas in mind: ‘We were at the Ziegfeld, I was sitting next to him, and he said –pointing to an elbow- ‘We should have cut that.’ ‘Marty, I said, we’re at the Ziegfeld, it’s the opening of the movie, and the editing is over.’

Entertainment Weekly adds this wonderful factoid:

Even the ketchup technique is authentic.
Before filming the scene with the meal at Tommy’s mother’s, Scorsese had Pileggi reach out to Hill to find out which method for getting ketchup out of the bottle Jimmy ‘The Gent’ used. That’s why De Niro rolls the bottle in his hands, as we see in the finished film.”

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GOODFELLAS is 25 Years Old, So Here Are 25 Things You Don’t Know About The Film

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.”

goodfellas-main-reviewJoe 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.
maxresdefault-1Robert De Niro as James Conway sitting in restaurant booth with Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in GOODFELLAS.

tumblr_n7p5ycyyth1rn5a30o1_500Ray 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.

goodfellasMartin 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.

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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.”
golden-globes
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.
goodfellas23f-9-webJoe 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.”
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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.

mcdgood-ec024Robert 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.

goodfellas2Joe 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.”ss3432312_-_photograph_of_ray_liotta_as_henry_hill_joe_pesci_as_tommy_devito_robert_de_niro_as_jimmy_conway_from_goodfellas_available_in_4_sizes_framed_or_unframed_buy_now_at_starstills__92124__93223.1404460384.1280.12

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