Goodfellas star Ray Liotta dead at 67

Ray
(CREDIT: Shutterstock)

Academy award-nominated and Primetime Emmy Award-winning iconic actor and star of Goodfellas, Ray Liotta has passed away at age 67.

Deadline first reported that the actor died quietly in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was shooting the film Dangerous Waters. No foul play is suspected. 

Raymond Allen Liotta was born in Newark, New Jersey, on December 18, 1954, and was abandoned at an orphanage before getting adopted by his parents Mary and Alfred Liotta when he was 6 months old. Liotta had a sister, Linda, who was also adopted and he knew he had been adopted since a very young age.

In the 2000s Liotta decided to find out who his biological parents were and hired a private investigator who was able to track down his mother. From there he discovered he had one biological sister, one biological half-brother, and five biological half-sisters.

Liotta graduated from Union High School in Union Township, New Jersey in 1973 before receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Miami, where he studied acting. After graduating in 1978, Liotta returned to the Northeast to pursue acting in New York.

One of his earliest roles was as Joey Perrini on the soap opera Another World, on which he appeared from 1978 to 1981. He quit the show so he could try his luck in the film industry and moved to Los Angeles. He made his film debut in 1983’s The Lonely Lady and his first major acting role was Something Wild in 1986, which earned him his first Golden Globe nomination.

In 1989, his career really took off when he portrayed the ghost of famed baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in the Academy Award-nominated fantasy/drama film Field of Dreams. His piercing blue eyes and chiseled look got him the role of real-life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful, cult classic film Goodfellas.

His performance in Goodfellas skyrocketed him into stardom and he appeared in films such as Unlawful Entry, No Escape, and Unforgettable. Liotta earned critical praise for his performance in James Mangold’s 1997 film Cop Land, and he received critical praise in 1998 for his performance as a compulsive gambler in Phoenix. 

Liotta played the Justice Department official Paul Krendler in the 2001 film Hannibal opposite Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. Also in 2001, Liotta played the father of drug dealer George Jung, played by Johnny Depp in the film Blow and, in the following year, appeared as Detective Lieutenant Henry Oak in the Joe Carnahan-directed film Narc.

Liotta then reunited with director James Mangold in 2003, alongside John Cusack and Alfred Molina, in the dark thriller Identity. In 2005, he narrated Inside the Mafia for the National Geographic Channel. He later reunited with Narc director Carnahan and appeared in Smokin’ Aces, in which he portrayed an FBI agent named Donald Carruthers in one of the lead roles.

Liotta appeared with John Travolta in the movie Wild Hogs, in Battle in Seattle as the city’s mayor, and in 2008, starred in Hero Wanted as a detective alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. Also in 2008, he made a guest appearance on SpongeBob SquarePants.

He also appeared in Crossing Over, co-starring Harrison Ford. Liotta played Detective Harrison in the 2009 Jody Hill comedy Observe and Report as Seth Rogen’s nemesis from the local police. In 2011, he starred in The Son of No One, opposite Channing Tatum, and for the first time in his career, mob movie legend, Al Pacino.

In addition to his film roles, Liotta portrayed singer Frank Sinatra in the 1998 TV movie The Rat Pack (for which he received a Screen Actors Guild award nomination), starred as himself in the sitcom Just Shoot Me. He provided the voice of Tommy Vercetti for the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and appeared in the television drama ER in 2004, playing Charlie Metcalf in the episode Time of Death. The ER role earned Liotta an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series and he later spoofed himself and his Emmy win in Bee Movie

It doesn’t seem like the man ever took a break to enjoy his success since he never stopped working, continuing his successful movie career in films like Date Night, with Steve Carell, Charlie St. Cloud with Zac Efron, the independent drama Snowmen, and The River Sorrow, which stars Liotta as a detective alongside Christian Slater and Ving Rhames.

He starred alongside Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini in the 2012 Andrew Dominik film Killing Them Softly and the 2013 Ariel Vromen film The Iceman which features Liotta as the character of Roy DeMeo. He also had a supporting role in Muppets Most Wanted.

In 2014, Liotta played a preacher in the film The Identical. Liotta starred in the Western miniseries Texas Rising for The History Channel. Other projects include Kill the Messenger with Jeremy Renner, Stretch with Chris Pine and a David Guetta music video. Since June 2015, Liotta had been narrating the AMC docu-series The Making of the Mob. Liotta starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in the TV show Shades of Blue between 2016 and 2018.

In 2018, Liotta became a spokesperson for Pfizer’s Chantix advertising campaign and appeared in commercials that aired all over the internet and on TV. 

Most recently Liotta played “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti, twin brothers, in the film, The Many Saints of Newark. Ray Liotta had a lot of projects in the works including April 29, 1992, Dangerous Waters, The Substance, Cocaine Bear and El Tonto (which is currently untitled)

Liotta married actress and producer Michelle Grace in February 1997 and they had a daughter together before divorcing in 2004.

In 2020, right around Christmas, Liotta announced his engagement to Jacy Nittolo in instagram:

Liotta leaves behind his daughter, Karsen and fiance Jacy Nittolo.


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The Internet Pays its Respects

As soon as the news hit the internet, many took to social media to pay their respects and share tributes:

Ray Liotta was a massive talent with a huge range and he will surely be missed.


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