Ray Liotta Was so Much More Than 'Goodfellas'

The actor died at the age of 67.

Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures

Goodfellas was always destined to be the first film mentioned in Ray Liotta’s obituaries, and that was the case when the actor died suddenly, in his sleep, at the age of 67 this week. His performance as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic is one for the ages. Close your eyes and you can hear his voice-over, that distinctive, almost sour lilt saying, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” As Hill, in those striped knit shirts, he was seductive and dangerous, luring you into his life of crime just as he lures his hesitant girlfriend Karen (Lorraine Bracco). When, in the last act, he becomes strung-out and jittery-paranoid from the coke and his impending downfall-Liotta’s piercing blue eyes bear the weight of that anxiety.

Henry Hill made Liotta an icon, but he was an actor who was always so much more than his most famous role.

Even before Goodfellas came out in 1990, Liotta was submitting performances that could completely upend a movie, bending the narrative to his will. In Jonathan Demme’s sort-of-rom-com Something Wild, he appears around the midway point as Ray, the violent, volatile husband of the heroine Lulu, portrayed by Melanie Griffith. Lulu starts the film as an unstable force for the audience. She traps nervous, philandering yuppie Charlie (Jeff Daniels) in her car and under her spell, taking him back to her hometown to attend her high school reunion. That’s where Ray comes in, hijacking Charlie and Lulu’s night by bringing them along on a low-stakes robbery. Liotta is arguably at his most physically beautiful, but he uses that beauty to terrifying effect. The threatening energy radiates out of him, even when he laughs, a cackle that can chill your spine, his mouth gaping as if to devour the out-of-his-depth Charlie. Liotta was so good at playing unhinged that you might forget how sensitive he can be. Just a year before Goodfellas, he had the small but pivotal role of Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, who walks out of a cornfield years after he was banned from baseball for fixing the World Series. It’s trite to say a performance is “haunted,” but Liotta’s is. In just a few scenes, you see the weight of a man’s unfulfilled wishes when he is unstuck in time. It’s ghostly but lovely. “Man, I did love this game”-the way his eyes search as he whispers these words will break your heart. More recently, Liotta had been turning in expectedly great work. He was hilarious as a bullish divorce lawyer in Marriage Story, sparring with Laura Dern in her Oscar-winning performance, and once again thoroughly scary as an abusive mob boss in Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move. In the Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, he gave dual performances as twin brothers, representing two sides of the mafia life. And he has more performances on the way, including a Charlie Day-directed comedy co-starring Kate Beckinsale, Jason Sudeikis, Edie Falco, and Raised by Wolves’ Travis Fimmel.

So while no one can blame you if you fire up Goodfellas to memorialize Liotta-it’s the best, after all-don’t forget he was so good in so much.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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