Martin Scorsese mourns Ray Liotta: 'Wish I'd had the chance to see him just once more'

Director Martin Scorsese is mourning the death of his former “Goodfellas” actor Ray Liotta.

Liotta, who became a gangster-movie icon in “Goodfellas” and brought an old-time baseball legend back to life in “Field of Dreams,” died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic while filming the upcoming movie “Dangerous Waters” in late May. He was 67.

In a column for The Guardian published Monday, Scorsese recalled the process of creating 1990’s “Goodfellas” and how Liotta persuaded producer Irwin Winkler to give him the lead role of Henry Hill.

Read the obituary: Ray Liotta, tough-guy star of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Field of Dreams,’ dies at 67

“The part required a rare combination of qualities,” Scorsese wrote. “He needed to be dangerous. He needed to be disarming. He needed to be vulnerable. Within the context of the world we were dealing with, he had to be something close to an innocent, the guy who was always there, witnessing everything, along for the ride. And, it goes without saying, he needed to look and act like he might have come out of that world.”

Winkler was worried Liotta didn’t have “enough charm to counterbalance all the violence and the excess,” but a short conversation after they ran into each other at a restaurant changed the producer’s mind.

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“The word ‘fearless’ is used quite often to describe actors, and with good reason: Actors need to be fearless,” Scorsese continued. “They have to jump in and just go, and they have to stumble and fail and risk appearing ridiculous as they’re finding their way into a role.”

Scenes in “Goodfellas” were often improvised, which meant actors and crew members needed to have a certain level of trust and understanding with each other, Scorsese recalled.

“Many members of the team had known each other and worked together for years, including my mother and my father. Into that walked the new guy, Ray Liotta, and he never missed a beat,” the director wrote. “It felt like we’d worked together for years.”

The two had “many plans to work together again.” Now, Scorsese laments the timing or project never being “quite right” to make it happen.

“I regret that now,” he wrote. “When I watched Ray as the divorce lawyer in ‘Marriage Story’ – he’s genuinely scary in the role, which is precisely why he’s so funny – I remember feeling that I wanted to work with him again at this point in his life, to explore the gravity in his presence, so different from the young, sprightly actor he was when I met him.

Scorsese added: “I wish I’d had the chance to see him just once more, too – to tell him just how much the work we did together meant to me. But maybe he knew that. I hope so.”

Contributing: Brian Truitt

More: Ray Liotta’s fiancée Jacy Nittolo mourns ‘Goodfellas’ actor: ‘The kind of real love that one dreams of’

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ray Liotta: ‘Goodfellas’ director Martin Scorsese mourns actor’s death

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