Actor Ray Liotta Dies at 67

By Terrance Turner

May 26, 2022

Veteran character actor Ray Liotta has died at 67.

According to his publicist Jennifer Allen, Liotta died in his sleep while in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming the movie “Dangerous Water”. No foul play is suspected, Allen added.

Raymond Allen Liotta was born on Dec. 18, 1954, in New Jersey. He was adopted by Alfred and Mary Liotta when he was a baby. He initially struggled with his being given up for adoption, but later learned to appreciate his adoptive parents. “At first, I didn’t understand how a parent could give up a child,” he told People magazine. “So I had that kind of energy of just being like, that’s f—ed up. And then when I finally met my birth mom in my 40s, by then, I wasn’t as angry about it. It’s just another journey.”

Added Liotta, “After years, you grow up, and you just see the pattern of things. I’ve definitely developed more patience. Now I’m grateful for my health. And being born. For my parents that adopted me. I mean, it could have gone a lot of different ways.”


He grew up in New Jersey, with two active parents — his mother was township clerk and his father, an auto parts dealer, was in the leadership of the Democratic club. Young Ray had no intention of becoming an actor in his early years. “I played pretend games as a kid, army, whatever, but I never wanted to be an actor,” he told “Basically I just played sports all the time. Basketball, baseball, football, you know, whatever the season was. But I remember senior year, basketball had stopped and the drama teacher asked me if I wanted to be in the play. So, alright, I’m not doing anything, I’m used to hanging around anyway, sure, I’ll be in the play.”

He didn’t like acting in the play, he said, and wasn’t planning on continuing. But when he arrived at the University of Miami, he chose drama because there was no math component. While waiting in line with other drama majors, he saw a pretty girl and decided to audition for a play to impress her. This time, he told NJ, he got the acting bug.

He made his acting debut in the NBC daytime soap opera “Another World,” where he played Joey Perrini from 1978 to 1981. But then he struggled to find major Hollywood work. He scored his breakout role in Jonathan Demme’s off-kilter comedy “Something Wild” (1987), playing Melanie Griffith’s psychotic ex-convict husband — a turn that hinted at the nerviness he could bring to the screen. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Liotta played legendary Chicago White Sox baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams” (1989), opposite Kevin Costner. Mr Costner played a Iowan farmer who’s inspired to build a baseball field in a cornfield; Liotta was one of the “ghosts” of baseball players past. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and became one of the most beloved sports films.

His “Field of Dreams” co-star Kevin Costner tweeted, “Devastated to hear the news of Ray Liotta’s passing. While he leaves an incredible legacy, he’ll always be ‘Shoeless Joe Jackson’ in my heart. What happened that moment in the film was real. God gave us that stunt. Now God has Ray.”

Ray Liotta in “Field of Dreams”. Photo from NBC News.

His next role would be arguably his most memorable. He portrayed Henry Hill, a real-life mob associate who gets swept up in the thrill and glamour of the criminal underworld, in “Goodfellas” (1990). Acting opposite actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Liotta played a gangster who helped pull off a heist at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1978, making off with $5 million in cash and jewels.

He and co-star Joe Pesci improvised the classic “How am I funny?” sequence after Pesci told a story to Liotta and Scorsese about a situation he got caught in when someone misinterpreted what he was saying and got irate. Liotta garnered strong notices for his performance. Roger Ebert, in his review, wrote that Liotta “creates the emotional center for a movie that is not about the experience of being a Mafioso, but about the feeling.”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt noted in his review that Liotta “fulfills the promise of his film debut in Something Wild. His choir-boy face perfectly masks the character’s dark behavior. As portrayed by Liotta, though, Henry never entirely loses the ‘good’ in the goodfella handle.” A critic for Variety added: “His boisterous laugh echos in the chambers of silver-screen history, and remains his most wondrous cinematic gift of his time here on Earth.”

Liotta (right) in the film “Goodfellas”. From

Lorraine Bracco, who played Liotta’s long-suffering wife in “Goodfellas,” paid respects to her former co-star on Twitter after the news broke, writing: “I am utterly shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray.”

“I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favorite movie is Goodfellas. Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same…Ray Liotta,” Bracco said in the tweet. “Goodfellas” co-star Robert De Niro shared a statement, writing, “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too young to have left us. May he Rest in Peace.”

“I’m absolutely shocked and devastated by the sudden, unexpected death of Ray Liotta,” Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor. Playing Henry Hill in Goodfellas was a tall order, because the character had so many different facets, so many complicated layers, and Ray was in almost every scene of a long, tough shoot. He absolutely amazed me, and I’ll always be proud of the work we did together on that picture. My heart goes out to his loved ones, and it aches for his loss, way too early.”


Liotta followed up his signature role with portrayals of a villainous cop in “Unlawful Entry” in 1992 and a widowed father in “Corrina, Corrina” (1994). Variety critic Clayton Davis noted: “While the film doesn’t fully explore the racial dynamics of an interracial couple, you see the patient temperament that Liotta brings to the role. I wish we saw him afforded more roles such as this.”

Liotta won a Primetime Emmy Award for best guest actor for his portrayal of a dying alcoholic on “ER” in 2005. He played a lawyer for Adam Driver’s character in 2019″s “Marriage Story”, which was nominated for six Academy awards, including Best Picture. (Co-star Laura Dern, who played opposite Liotta as Scarlett Johansson’s attorney, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.)

From 2016 through 2018, Liotta played corrupt cop Wozniak on the NBC police drama Shades of Blue, opposite Jennifer Lopez. She paid tribute to him today via Instagram. “Ray was my partner in crime on ‘Shades of Blue’ … the first thing that comes to mind is he was so kind to my children,” the actress wrote Thursday in a tribute post dedicated to her late co-star.

“We shared some intense moments on set those three years! When I first heard he took the job on Shades of Blue I was thrilled, and the first time we walked on set to do our first scene together, there was an electric spark and a mutual respect and we both knew this was going to be good,” she remembered. “We enjoyed doing our scenes together and I felt lucky to have him there to work with and learn from. Like all artists he was complicated, sincere, honest and so very emotional. Like a raw nerve, he was so accessible and so in touch in his acting and I will always remember our time together fondly.”


Liotta is survived by an adult daughter, Karmine, who played his daughter on “Shades of Blue”, and his fiancee, Jacy Nittolo (to whom he proposed on Christmas Day 2020).

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