Goodfellas - Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci

Warner Bros.

Martin Scorsese brought out a masterful piece of crime cinema in 1990 when he released Goodfellas. Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, it chronicles the life of gangster Henry Hill as he rises in the criminal underworld. 

Here are 10 facts about Goodfellas… 

1) Robert De Niro insisted on handing out real money

During one scene, Jimmy (played by De Niro) hands out money to his cronies. He didn’t like the way that the fake money felt in his hands so, instead, requested that they use real money instead. The prop master took out $5,000 of his own money for Robert De Niro to use, and nobody was allowed to leave the set until every dollar was returned. 

2) The ‘How am I funny?’ scene really happened to Pesci

Arguably the most memorable scene in Goodfellas is when Jo Pesci questioned Liotta, ‘how am I funny? How? Like I’m a clown? I amuse you?’ This was inspired by an incident that happened to Pesci years earlier. Whilst working in a restaurant, Pesci told a mobster dining there that he was funny, and got the same response Liotta’s character got in the film. After telling Scorsese the story, the director knew it had to be included. 

3) Robert De Niro would call the real Henry Hill multiple times a day 

The real Henry Hill, who the story is based on, later said in a documentary that Robert De Niro would call him anything up to ten times a day, looking for information on the real Jimmy – the character he was playing in the film. He’d ask for details such as, ‘how did he hold his cigarettes?’ 

4) Ray Liotta turned down a role in Batman for Goodfellas 

Ray Liotta, who played the lead in the film, was actually offered a role in Tim Burton’s Batman at the same time. The role was for district attorney Harvey Dent. Liotta turned the role down. It turned out to only be a small part, which eventually went to Lando Calrission himself, Billy Dee Williams. 

5) Tommy’s mother is played by Scorsese’s mother 

Tommy’s mother, who the guys visit for dinner after killing Billy Batts, was played by Catherine Scorsese – the director’s real life mother. He didn’t give her context for the scene, and that there was a corpse in the boot of the car outside, so that she could uphold the character’s innocent nature. 

6) Tommy’s mother’s painting 

Whilst having dinner with Tommy’s mother, she pulls out a painting of a man in a boat with his two dogs. ‘One dog goes one way, and the other dog goes the other way. And this guy’s saying, ‘what do you want from me?’’ The painting was actually painted by the mother of Nicholas Pileggi, the author of Wiseguy, and the screenwriter for the movie. 

7) 300 f**ks in Goodfellas

At the time the film was released, it held the record for the most ‘f**ks’ said in a single movie, with a staggering 300! Two later Scorsese films have since made it into this expletive list – 1995’s Casino with 422 f**ks and 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street with 569 f**ks. 

8) Scorsese would tie Liotta’s tie himself 

Scorsese knew the importance of the cast’s wardrobe in portraying each era in the movie. So much so, that he would tie Ray Liotta’s tie himself, to ensure it was correct for theera they were filming, 

9) I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life

Goodfellas is based on the book ‘Wiseguy’ by Nicholas Pileggi. Martin Scorsese, when he got an early copy of the book, rang the author and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this book all my life.’ The director hadn’t wanted to make another gangster movie, but after reading Wiseguy, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to adapt it into cinema.

10) Joe Pesci’s performance of Tommy was incredible accurate 

Joe Pesci was terrifying in his role as Tommy Devito, who was inspired by the real life gangster Tommy DeSimone. Henry Hill – the man whose life the film follows – said that Pesci was 90-99% accurate in his performance. The only difference was that DeSimone had a huge build. 

There you have it – 10 pieces of Goodfellas trivia.

Goodfellas trailer

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