Ray Liotta (1954–2022) Tribute List

December 2, 2022
Intense character actor, Ray Liotta, was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1954. Best known for his on-the-edge tough-guy characterizations, Liotta's film debut was the 1986 black comedy Something Wild, which led to his best known roles: Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams (1989); and, Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990). Goodfellas' huge success brought him wide popularity which Liotta turned into characters in many different genres, including family drama, comedy, crime/cop dramas, as well as his 2005 Emmy award-winning appearance on ER. Liotta continued working in film and TV until his death on May 26, 2022. This list highlights his edgy character style through his quotes, film lines, interviews, and articles.
During his senior year of high school, a drama teacher asked him whether he wanted to be in a play. He'd go on to study acting at the University of Miami, and after graduation, he got his first break on the soap opera "Another World."
USA Today
"He was salt of the earth," said Steven Edwards, president of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. "When we were inducting him into the Hall of Fame, we were encouraging him to get some A-lister to induct him. Ray insisted that we get his childhood friend, Gene Laguna, who he played baseball with."
– Steven Edwards, USA Today
In 1989's "Field of Dreams," he portrayed "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, a member of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team who shows up as a ghost in the cornfield of an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner).
USA Today
Hill, who died in 2012, was a fan of Liotta’s portrayal based on his book with Nicole Pileggi, Wiseguy.
Rolling Stone
In 1990, Liotta as Henry Hill became the lynchpin of Martin Scorsese's opus Goodfellas, delivering lines like 'As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster' with laconic cool.
Rotten Tomatoes
"As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a gangster."
– Goodfellas
"Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet...The thrill of the grass."
– Field of Dreams
"Do you want to teach me a lullaby to sing to you every night?"
– Corrina, Corrina
"Ray was the epitome of a tough guy who was all mushy on the inside…I guess that's what made him such a compelling actor to watch," said Jennifer Lopez, who starred with Liotta in the TV cop series, "Shades of Blue."
He was known for his intensity, especially in crime dramas, but he was also adept at comedy.
The New York Times
He specialized in psychopathic characters who hide behind a cultivated charm.
Even in his nice-guy roles in Field of Dreams (1989) and Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), you get the impression that something is smoldering inside of him.
He broke into movies with the black comedy Something Wild (1986), which garnered him rave reviews.
"You want to do as many different genres as you can and that's what I've been doing. I've done movies with the Muppets. I did Sinatra. I did good guys and bad guys. I did a movie with an elephant. I decided that I was here to try different parts and do different things. That's what it’s really all about. That's what a career should be."
– Ray Liotta, Long Island Weekly
Fresh off HBO's "The Rat Pack," in which he played Frank Sinatra, Ray Liotta turns up in a terrific neo-noir, "Phoenix," which opens today at the NuWilshire with scant fanfare—but which packs a wallop.
Los Angeles Times
But for all the scene-chewing, the weathered and ferocious Henry Oak is no tough-guy caricature. Liotta infuses him with enough ambiguity – even softness – that you're never quite sure whether he's a good cop gone bad or a bad cop gone good.
The Washington Post

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