His rep Jennifer Craig at Gersh confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter, saying the actor died in his sleep while on location shooting a movie. She was unable to provide any other details, but reports indicated he was in the Dominican Republic on the film Dangerous Waters.
Liotta also was memorable as Ray Sinclair, the violent ex-convict husband of Melanie Griffith’s character, in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), as the disgraced baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in the Kevin Costner-starrer Field of Dreams (1989) and as the corrupt cop Matt Wozniak on the 2016-18 NBC cop drama Shades of Blues, opposite Jennifer Lopez.
Crime stories were his specialty — he was a great choice to narrate Inside the Mafia for the National Geographic Channel in 2005 — and he was superb as shady cops in Unlawful Entry (1992), Cop Land (1997) and Narc (2004) and as the voice of the mobster Tommy Vercetti in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Liotta was quite busy recently, with big-screen roles in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019), Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move (2021) and Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark (2021) — as two members of the Moltisanti family in the Sopranos prequel — and on three seasons of the Amazon series Hanna.
According to IMDb, he has worked on the still-to-be-released movies El Tonto, Cocaine Bear, The Substance and April 29, 1992.
Goodfellas (1990) was based on Nicholas Pileggi’s first book, 1985’s Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, which revolved around Hill, a street-level hustler in New York City who decides that the only way to get out of the mob alive is to rat on his cohorts in the Lucchese crime family.
THR reviewer 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.”
He and co-star Joe Pesci improvised the classic “How am I funny?” moment after Pesci told a story to Liotta and Scorsese about an actual situation he was in when someone took what he was saying wrong and got irate.
Liotta’s résumé also included Phoenix (1998), Hannibal (2001), Blow (2001), John Q (2002), Identity (2003), Revolver (2005), Smokin’ Aces (2006), Observe and Report (2009), Powder Blue (2009), Killing Them Softly (2012), The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014).
He also won an Emmy Award in 2005 for his guest turn as an alcoholic ex-con who comes to County General on the NBC drama ER — an episode noted for being shot in real time — then spoofed that performance in Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie (2007).
Raymond Allen Liotta was born in Newark on Dec. 18, 1954. He was adopted by Mary and Alfred Liotta from an orphanage when he was six months old.
“I found my birth mother and found out I have, not an identical twin, but a half-brother, five half-sisters and a full sister that I didn’t know about until 15 years ago,” he told THR in 2014.
He attended Union High School and graduated from the University of Miami, where he studied acting, in 1978. He worked as a bartender on Broadway before landing the role of nice guy Joey Perrini on Another World, and he remained on the NBC soap from 1978-81.
Liotta came to Los Angeles and made his film debut in 1983’s The Lonely Lady, starring Pia Zadora, then played a cop in his first primetime series, ABC’s Our Family Honor.
When he was cast as the vengeful husband in Something Wild (1986) — he got the part because an acting classmate, Steven Bauer, was then married to Griffith — “I was just on pins and needles,” he told THR‘s Scott Feinberg during an Awards Chatter interview in 2016. “Remember, I hadn’t done a movie. I was 30 years old.”
That led to offers to play other rough characters, “but that’s not who I am — I mean, me personally, I’ve never been in a fight in my life, and yet here, now, I’m getting stuck with this tough guy stuff.