Ray Liotta
Ray Liotta Deauville 2014 3.jpg
Born(1954-12-18)December 18, 1954
DiedMay 26, 2022(2022-05-26) (aged 67)
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Occupation
  • Actor
  • film producer
Years active1978–2022
Spouse(s)
Michelle Grace
(m. 1997; div. 2004)
Partner(s)Jacy Nittolo
Children1

Raymond Allen Liotta (Italian: [liˈɔtta]; December 18, 1954 – May 26, 2022) was an American actor and film producer. He was most known for his roles as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams (1989) and Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990). He was a Primetime Emmy Award winning actor and received nominations for a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Liotta first gained attention for his role as Ray Sinclair in the Jonathan Demme film Something Wild (1986), for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture nomination. He continued to star in films such as Unlawful Entry (1992), No Escape (1994), Cop Land (1997) Hannibal (2001), Blow (2001), Narc (2002), John Q (2002), Identity (2003), Killing Them Softly (2012), The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), Kill the Messenger (2014), Marriage Story (2019), and the Sopranos prequel theatrical film The Many Saints of Newark (2021).

He was also known for his television work in ER for which he received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2004. He starred as Frank Sinatra in the television film The Rat Pack (1998) and Lorca and Tom Mitchell in Texas Rising (2015) for which he earned Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. He also starred in the drama series Shades of Blue (2016–2018) with Jennifer Lopez. He also had a prominent voice acting role as Tommy Vercetti in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002).

Early life

Liotta was born in Newark, New Jersey, on December 18, 1954.[1] Having been abandoned at an orphanage, he was adopted at the age of six months by township clerk Mary (née Edgar) and auto-parts store owner Alfred Liotta.[2][3][4][5] His adoptive parents were of Italian and Scottish descent.[6] Alfred was a personnel director and president of a local Democratic Party club.[2] His adoptive parents each unsuccessfully ran for local political office; he recalled attending parades to hand out flyers for his father's run.[7][8]

Liotta had a sister, Linda, who was also adopted. He said that he knew he was adopted as a young child, and presented a show-and-tell report on it for kindergarten.[7] He hired a private detective to locate his biological mother in the 2000s, from whom he learned that he was mostly of Scottish descent.[9][10] He had one biological sister, one biological half-brother, and five biological half-sisters.[7][11]

Liotta grew up in a Roman Catholic household in Union, New Jersey,[12] although his family was not especially religious.[13] They attended church and he received first communion and was confirmed, but the family did not pray much. He occasionally used prayer in his daily life, telling an interviewer, "... if I'm in a fix I'll pray ... if I'm feeling uncomfortable about something I'll say "Our Father's" and "Hail Marys" to this day."[13] In 1973, he graduated from Union High School[9] and was later named to the Union High School Hall of Fame.[14]

Education

Liotta attended the University of Miami, where he studied acting and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1978.[15] He performed in musicals, including Cabaret, Dames at Sea, Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music, at the University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.[16]

Career

Liotta at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival in Canada
Liotta at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival in Canada

After college, Liotta moved to New York City. He got a job as a bartender at the Shubert Organization and landed an agent within six months.[9] One of his earliest roles was as Joey Perrini on the soap opera Another World, on which he appeared from 1978 to 1981.[17] He left the show and moved to Los Angeles. He made his film debut in 1983's The Lonely Lady. His first major acting role was Something Wild (1986),[7][18] for which he received his first Golden Globe nomination, this nomination being for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.[19] In 1989, Liotta portrayed the ghost of baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in the fantasy/drama film Field of Dreams.[20]

In 1990, Liotta portrayed real-life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's universally praised and commercially successful Academy Award winning film Goodfellas.[9] In 1992, he starred as a psychopathic cop in the thriller Unlawful Entry. He appeared in a leading role in the science-fiction/action film No Escape. In 1996, he starred in the sci-fi/thriller Unforgettable. Liotta earned critical praise for his turn in James Mangold's 1997 film Cop Land, and he received critical praise in 1998 for his performance as a compulsive gambler in Phoenix.[21]

Liotta portrayed singer Frank Sinatra in the 1998 TV movie The Rat Pack (for which he received a Screen Actors Guild award nomination). He starred as himself in the sitcom Just Shoot Me in December 2001. In January 2002 he provided the voice of Tommy Vercetti for the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. He appeared in the television drama ER in 2004, playing Charlie Metcalf in the episode "Time of Death".

The ER role earned Liotta an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Liotta later spoofed himself and his Emmy win in Bee Movie). Liotta starred in the 2006 CBS television series Smith, which was pulled from the schedule after three episodes. In 2012 Liotta appeared as himself in a purely vocal role for the "What a Croc!" episode of the Disney Channel comedy series Phineas & Ferb.[22]

Liotta played the Justice Department official Paul Krendler in the 2001 film Hannibal opposite Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. Also in 2001, he played the father of drug dealer George Jung in the film Blow. In 2002 he appeared as Detective Lieutenant Henry Oak in the Joe Carnahan-directed film Narc, a role that led to an Independent Spirit Award nomination and a Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards nomination for Best Supporting Male.[23][24]

He reunited with director James Mangold in 2003, alongside John Cusack and Alfred Molina, in the dark horror-thriller Identity. In 2005, he narrated Inside the Mafia for the National Geographic Channel. In 2006 he appeared in Smokin' Aces—reuniting with Narc director Carnahan, in which he portrayed an FBI agent named Donald Carruthers in one of the lead roles.[25] In 2004, Liotta made his Broadway debut opposite Frank Langellain the Stephen Belber play Match.[26][27][28] Ben Brantley of The New York Times described Liotta as "compelling" but "doesn't have much to work with for his Broadway debut."[29] That same year he appeared in an advertisement for Heinekin in the UK. The ads were eventually pulled by Ofcom "in breach of the advertising code for implying that stronger alcohol is better."[30]

In 2007 Liotta appeared with John Travolta in the movie Wild Hogs, and in Battle in Seattle as the city's mayor. In 2008 he starred in Hero Wanted as a detective alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. Also in 2008, he made a guest appearance on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "What Ever Happened to SpongeBob?". In the episode, he voices the leader of a gang called the Bubble Poppin’ Boys, who try to kill an amnesiac SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny).[31][32][33] In 2009 he appeared in Crossing Over, co-starring Harrison Ford. Liotta played Detective Harrison in the 2009 Jody Hill comedy Observe and Report as Seth Rogen's nemesis from the local police. In 2011, he starred in The Son of No One, opposite Channing Tatum and, for the first time in his career, with Al Pacino.[34]

Liotta, Winona Ryder and Michael Shannon at TIFF in 2012
Liotta, Winona Ryder and Michael Shannon at TIFF in 2012

In the 2010s, Liotta appeared in Date Night with Steve Carell, in Charlie St. Cloud with Zac Efron, the independent drama Snowmen, and The River Sorrow, which stars Liotta as a detective alongside Christian Slater and Ving Rhames. He starred alongside Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini in the 2012 Andrew Dominik film Killing Them Softly[35] and the 2013 Ariel Vromen film The Iceman features Liotta as the character of Roy DeMeo.[36] He had a supporting role in Muppets Most Wanted (2014).[37]

In 2014, he played a preacher in the faith-based film The Identical.[16][38] His other 2014 projects include Kill the Messenger with Jeremy Renner, Stretch with Chris Pine, and a David Guetta video.[38] He starred in the Western miniseries Texas Rising for The History Channel in 2015. For his performance he earned a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie nomination. From 2015 to 2016, he narrated the AMC docu-series The Making of the Mob.[39] Liotta starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue between 2016 and 2018.[40][41] In 2018, he became a spokesperson for Pfizer's Chantix advertising campaign.[42]

Liotta appeared as Charlie Barber's (Adam Driver) second divorce attorney, Jay Marotta in the 2019 Noah Baumbach film Marriage Story.[43] The film received widespread critical acclaim and earned six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Liotta received praise for his performance with Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian declaring, "what a thrill to hear his syrupy-gravelly voice again". The Hollywood Reporter described Liotta as being in "in fine, mischievous form".[44] In 2021, He played twin brothers "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti and Salvatore "Sally" Moltisanti in the film The Many Saints of Newark.[45]

The actor was cast in Cocaine Bear, a thriller film based on the true story of an American black bear that ingested a duffel bag full of cocaine in 1985. The movie, due in theaters in 2023, is directed by actress Elizabeth Banks and traces the aftermath of a drug runner's cocaine disappearing in a plane crash and being devoured by a bear.[17]

Personal life

Liotta at the Deauville Film Festival in France, September 2014
Liotta at the Deauville Film Festival in France, September 2014

Liotta married actress and producer Michelle Grace in February 1997 after they met at a baseball game, where her former husband Mark Grace was playing for the Chicago Cubs.[46] The couple had a daughter, Karsen, before divorcing in 2004.[2][9]

On an episode of Jay Leno's Garage, Liotta revealed that Nancy and Tina Sinatra, daughters of Frank Sinatra, once sent Liotta a horse's head in the mail. The joke was in response to Liotta demurring to play their late father in a miniseries they were working on, only to see Liotta play him in the 1998 HBO television film The Rat Pack.[47]

In February 2007, he was charged for driving under the influence after crashing his Cadillac Escalade into two parked vehicles in Pacific Palisades.[48] He pleaded no contest.[49]

From his experience shooting the Western Texas Rising, Liotta continued horseback riding and said in September 2014: "I was obsessed with riding horses [on the show]. I love it now. I've never had a hobby. It might be my new hobby."[7]

In 2018, discussing his role alongside Jennifer Lopez as a corrupt cop targeted by the FBI in the NBC crime drama Shades of Blue, Liotta told a reporter for Long Island Weekly:

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.[50]

Liotta died in his sleep on May 26, 2022, at the age of 67 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, during the filming of Dangerous Waters.[51] At the time of his death, he was engaged to Jacy Nittolo.[52]

Filmography

Key
Not yet released Denotes works that have not yet been released

Film

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1983 The Lonely Lady Joe Heron Film debut [53]
1986 Something Wild Ray Sinclair [54]
1987 Arena Brains The Artist Short film [55]
1988 Dominick and Eugene Eugene "Gino" Luciano [56]
1989 Field of Dreams Shoeless Joe Jackson [52]
1990 Goodfellas Henry Hill [51]
1992 Article 99 Dr. Richard Sturgess [57]
Unlawful Entry Officer Pete Davis [58]
1994 No Escape Captain J.T. Robbins [59]
Corrina, Corrina Manny Singer [60]
1995 Operation Dumbo Drop Captain T.C. Doyle [61]
1996 Unforgettable Dr. David Krane [62]
1997 Turbulence Ryan Weaver [63]
Cop Land Detective Gary "Figgsy" Figgis [64]
1998 Phoenix Detective Harry Collins Also co-producer [65]
1999 Muppets from Space Gate Guard Cameo [66]
Forever Mine Mark Brice [67]
2000 Pilgrim Jack [68]
A Rumor of Angels Nathan Neubauer [69]
2001 Hannibal Paul Krendler [70]
Heartbreakers Dean Cummano / Vinny Staggliano [71]
Blow Fred Jung [72]
2002 Narc Lieutenant Henry Oak Also producer [73]
John Q Chief Gus Monroe [74]
Ticker Secret Service agent BMW short film for The Hire [75][76]
2003 Identity Officer Rhodes [77]
2004 The Last Shot Jack Devine [78]
Control Lee Ray Oliver Direct-to-DVD [79]
2005 Revolver Dorothy Macha [80]
Slow Burn Ford Cole Also co-executive producer [81][82]
2006 Even Money Tom Carver [83]
Take the Lead Executive producer [84][85]
Local Color John Talia Sr. [86]
Comeback Season Walter Pearce [87]
Smokin' Aces FBI Agent Donald Carruthers [88]
2007 Wild Hogs Jack Blade [89]
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale Gallian [90]
Battle in Seattle Mayor Jim Tobin [91]
Bee Movie Himself (voice) [92]
2008 Hero Wanted Detective Terry Subcott Direct-to-DVD [93]
Powder Blue Jack Doheny [94]
2009 Crossing Over Cole Frankel [95]
Observe and Report Detective Harrison [96]
The Line Mark Shields Also executive producer [97]
Youth in Revolt Lance Wescott [98]
2010 Crazy on the Outside Gray [99]
Date Night Joe Miletto Uncredited [100]
Snowmen Reggie Kirkfield Also executive producer [101]
Chasing 3000 Adult Mickey [102]
Charlie St. Cloud Florio Ferrente [103]
2011 The Details Peter Mazzoni [104]
The Son of No One Capt. Mathers [105]
All Things Fall Apart Dr. Brintall [106]
Street Kings 2: Motor City Detective Marty Kingston Direct-to-DVD [107]
The River Murders Jack Verdon [108]
Field of Dreams 2: Lockout Roger Goodell Short film [109]
The Entitled Richard Nader [110]
2012 Wanderlust Himself Cameo [52]
Killing Them Softly Markie Trattman [111]
Breathless Sheriff Cooley [112]
The Iceman Roy DeMeo [113]
The Place Beyond the Pines Peter Deluca [114]
Ticket Out Jim [115]
Yellow Afai [116]
Bad Karma Molloy [117]
Dear Dracula Count Dracula (voice) Direct-to-DVD [118]
2013 The Devil's in the Details Dr. Bruce Michaels [119]
Pawn Man in the Suit [120]
Suddenly Todd Shaw [121]
2014 Better Living Through Chemistry Elizabeth's Husband [122]
Muppets Most Wanted Big Papa [123]
The Identical Reece Wade Also executive producer [124]
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Joey [125]
Revenge of the Green Dragons FBI Agent Michael Bloom [126]
Stretch Himself Cameo [127]
Kill the Messenger John Cullen [128]
2015 Blackway Blackway [129]
Campus Code Bartender [130]
2016 Sticky Notes Jack [131]
Flock of Dudes Uncle Reed [132]
2019 Marriage Story Jay Marotta [51]
2020 Hubie Halloween Pete Landolfa [133]
2021 No Sudden Move Frank Capelli [134]
The Many Saints of Newark Aldo "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti /
Salvatore "Sally" Moltisanti
[135]
2022 Every Last Secret Mr. Ancilla [136]
2023 Cocaine Bear Not yet released Post-production, posthumous release [51][17]
TBA Untitled Charlie Day film Not yet released Completed, posthumous release [134]
The Substance Not yet released Filming, posthumous release [134]
Dangerous Waters Not yet released Filming, posthumous release [134]
Clash Not yet released Lowell Filming, posthumous release [137]

Television

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1978–1981 Another World Joey Perrini [138]
1980 Hardhat and Legs Family Television film [139]
1981 Crazy Times Johnny "Wizard" Lazarra Television film [140]
1983 St. Elsewhere Murray Episode: "Rain" [52]
Casablanca Sacha 5 episodes [134]
1984 Mike Hammer Tony Cable Episode: "Kill Devil" [141]
1985 Our Family Honor Officer Ed Santini 10 episodes [138]
1991 Women & Men 2 Meadows Television film [142]
1995 Frasier Bob Voice; Episode: "Frasier Grinch" [134][143]
1998 The Rat Pack Frank Sinatra Television film [138]
2001 Family Guy Zack Voice; Episode: "Brian Does Hollywood" [52]
2001–2002 Just Shoot Me! Himself 2 episodes [52]
2002 Point of Origin John Leonard Orr Television film [144]
2003 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Ray Liotta/The Donnas" [145]
2004 ER Charlie Metcalf Episode: "Time of Death" [138]
2006–2007 Smith Bobby Stevens 7 episodes [52]
2008 SpongeBob SquarePants Bubble Poppin Boys Leader Voice; Episode: "What Ever Happened to SpongeBob?" [52]
2010 Hannah Montana Principal Luger Episode: "Hannah Montana to the Principal's Office" [52]
2011 The League Mr. Hudabega Episode: "Yobogoya!" [146]
2012 Phineas and Ferb Himself Voice; Episode: "What A Croc!" [143]
NTSF:SD:SUV:: Jason Episode: "Wasilla Hills Cop" [147]
Abominable Christmas Abominable Dad Voice; Television film [143]
2014 The Money George Archer Pilot [148]
2015 Texas Rising Lorca 5 episodes [134]
2015–2016 The Making of the Mob Narrator Voice; 16 episodes [51]
2016–2018 Shades of Blue Lt. Matt Wozniak 36 episodes [138]
2016 Modern Family Himself Episode: "Playdates" [134]
2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Paulie Fiuccillo Episode: "Kimmy Pulls Off a Heist!" [134]
Young Sheldon Vincent Episode: "A Solar Calculator, a Game Ball, and a Cheerleader's Bosom" [149]
2018 Great News Himself Episode: "Early Retirement" [150]
The Simpsons Morty Szyslak Voice; Episode: "King Leer" [52]
2021 Hanna Gordon Evans 6 episodes [151]
2022 Black Bird James "Big Jim" Keene Miniseries, posthumous release [151]

Video games

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
2002 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Tommy Vercetti G-Phoria Award for Best Male Voice Performance.
Spike Video Game Award for Best Performance.
[123]
2013 Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Zombies) Billy Handsome Character featured in the Mob of the Dead zombies map [152]
2021 Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Tommy Vercetti Archival Recordings
Remaster of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City only.
[153]

Theater

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
2004 Match Mike Broadway [123]

Music videos

Year Title Album Role Ref(s)
2014 "Lovers on the Sun" Listen by David Guetta The Villain [51]
2015 "Bloodstream" × by Ed Sheeran and Rudimental [154]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1986 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Something Wild Nominated
1986 Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actor Won
1986 National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor 3rd Place
1986 New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Supporting Actor 3rd Place
1998 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie The Rat Pack Nominated
2002 Independent Spirit Award Best Supporting Male Narc Nominated
2002 Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
2005 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series ER Won
2015 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie Texas Rising Nominated

References

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