Can you imagine it’s already been 30 years since GoodFellas released in theatres? The amazing mobster movie directed by Martin Scorsese is arguably one of the best mafia movies ever. The story for GoodFellas was based on the real-life of Henry Hill, a mafia mobster turned FBI informant.
The movie GoodFellas was based on a book, “Wiseguy” written by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the script for Goodfellas with Martin Scorsese. Together, they produced one of the best crime films ever and even 30 years later, Goodfellas stands the test of time. Here are 23 trivia facts you probably didn’t know about Goodfellas!
1) Joe Pesci played Tommy DeSimone in GoodFellas.
According to Henry Hill, whose life was the basis for the book and film, Joe Pesci’s portrayal of Tommy DeSimone in GoodFellas was 90-99% accurate, with one notable exception; the real Tommy DeSimone was massively built.
After Joe Pesci’s mother saw the film GoodFellas, she told him the movie was good, then asked him if he had to curse so much.
3) Al Pacino turned down GoodFellas to play Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy.
Al Pacino was offered the role of Jimmy Conway in GoodFellas. He turned it down due to fears of typecasting. The same year, Pacino ended up playing an even more stereotyped gangster, Big Boy Caprice, in Dick Tracy (1990). He admits regretting the decision.
4) Debi Mazar played Sandy in GoodFellas.
According to Debi Mazar, when Sandy, her character in GoodFellas, trips after meeting Henry, it was actually Mazar tripping over the camera dolly track. Martin Scorsese liked it because it looked like she was overwhelmed by Henry, and left it in the film, GoodFellas.
5) Robert De Niro played James Conway in GoodFellas.
Every one of Robert De Niro’s outfits for GoodFellas had a watch and a pinkie ring to go with it.
6) Tony Darrow played Sonny Bunz in GoodFellas.
For the scene in GoodFellas where Sonny Bunz complains to Paulie, Martin Scorsese secretly told Tony Darrow to improvise more lines for his character without telling Paul Sorvino. Sorvino’s confused reaction in the film GoodFellas was real.
7) Paul Sorvino played Paul Cicero in GoodFellas.
The film GoodFellas has 43 songs, the equivalent of about four albums. According to music editor Christopher Brooks, Martin Scorsese had thought about all the songs and where they would appear “three years before he shot the film, GoodFellas.”
“Fuck” and its derivatives are used 321 times, an average of 2.04 per minute. Joe Pesci says about half of them. The script for GoodFellas called for the word to be used 70 times, but much of the dialogue was improvised during shooting, and the expletives piled up. At the time of the films’ release, GoodFellas had the most profanity of any movie in history. As of 2020, it’s #15; The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), also directed by Martin Scorsese, is #3.
9) Ray Liotta played Henry Hill in GoodFellas.
Henry’s last day as a wiseguy was the hardest part of GoodFellas for Martin Scorsese to shoot. He wanted to properly show Henry’s anxiety, paranoia, and racing thoughts caused by cocaine and amphetamine intoxication. Ray Liotta had never been under the influence of those drugs and found it difficult to accurately portray.
Henry Hill claimed that Robert De Niro would phone him seven to eight times a day to discuss certain things about Jimmy’s character, such as how Jimmy would hold his cigarette.
The “How am I funny?” scene in GoodFellas is based on something that actually happened to Joe Pesci. While working in a restaurant, a young Pesci apparently told a mobster that he was funny, a compliment that was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response. Pesci relayed the anecdote to Martin Scorsese, who decided to include it in the film, GoodFellas. Scorsese didn’t include the scene in the shooting script of GoodFellas so that Pesci and Ray Liotta’s interactions would elicit genuinely surprised reactions from the supporting cast.
Joe Pesci’s Oscar acceptance speech is the sixth shortest in the Academy’s history, “it’s my privilege, thank you.” Pesci later admitted that he didn’t say very much, because he genuinely felt that he didn’t have a chance of winning the “Best Actor In a Supporting Role” category for GoodFellas.
Martin Scorsese first got wind of Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” when he was handed the galley proofs. Although Scorsese had sworn off making another gangster movie, he immediately cold-called the writer and told him; “I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.” Pileggi replied; “I’ve been waiting for this phone call my entire life.”
Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi collaborated on the GoodFellas screenplay. Over the course of 12 drafts, the reporter realized “the visual styling had to be completely redone. So we decided to share credit.” They decided which sections of the book they liked and put them together like building blocks. Scorsese persuaded Pileggi that they did not need to follow a traditional narrative structure. Scorsese wanted to take the gangster film, and deal with it episode by episode, but start in the middle and move backward and forward. Scorsese would compact scenes, and realized that if they were kept short, “the impact after about an hour and a half would be terrific.”
15) Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese played the role of Tommy’s mother in GoodFellas.
The painting that Joe Pesci’s character’s mother brings out was actually painted by “Wiseguy” author Nicholas Pileggi’s mother.
16) Did Ray Liotta make the right decision to choose GoodFellas? Let us know in the comments!
Ray Liotta turned down the part of Harvey Dent in Batman (1989) in order to make GoodFellas.
Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene in GoodFellas where Jimmy hands out money because he didn’t like the way fake money felt in his hands. The prop master gave De Niro $5,000 of his own money. At the end of each take, no one was allowed to leave the set until all the money was returned and counted.
Martin Scorsese was so involved in every detail of the cast’s wardrobe that he tied Liotta’s tie himself to make sure it was accurate for the film’s setting.
Some mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to scenes in GoodFellas. The mobsters gave Warner Bros. fake Social Security numbers, and no one knows how they received their paychecks.
20) Chuck Low played Morris Kessler in GoodFellas.
The studio was initially very nervous about GoodFellas, due to its extreme violence and language. GoodFellas reportedly received the worst preview response in the studio’s history. Martin Scorsese said that “the numbers were so low, it was funny.” Nevertheless, GoodFellas was released without alteration to overwhelming critical acclaim, cementing Scorsese’s reputation as one of America’s foremost filmmakers.
The line “As far back as I could remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” was voted as number 20 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
22) Lorraine Bracco played Karen Hill in GoodFellas.
According to Joe Pesci, improvisation and ad-libbing in GoodFellas came out of rehearsals, where Martin Scorsese let the cast do whatever they wanted. He made transcripts of these sessions, took the lines that he liked best, and put them into a revised script, which the cast worked from during principal photography.
During one of the final scenes in GoodFellas, Henry Hill opens his front door and picks up a newspaper. Close inspection reveals that the newspaper is the Youngstown Vindicator. Martin Scorsese included it as an homage to Youngstown, Ohio, which has been called “Mobtown, USA”.
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