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Trivia for Goodfellas

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  • Tony Darrow worked in the real-life Bamboo Lounge, where Henry Hill and the people on whom the film's characters are based would hang out.
  • Voted number one in Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time list (November 2005).
  • The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company's gangster film short The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) influenced Martin Scorsese's gangster films Goodfellas (1990) and Gangs of New York (2002). Scorcese chose it for his 2005 tribute at Beaubourg (1977) in Paris. Biograph, America's oldest movie company, is still in business.
  • The dinner scene with Tommy's mother was almost completely improvised, including Tommy asking his mother if he could borrow her butcher's knife and Jimmy's "hoof" comment.
  • When Karen sees Janice Rossi in the prison visitor registry, the name below is listed as "Ballibusteros".
  • Voted number six on Empire magazine's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (September 2008).
  • The movie's line "How am I funny?" was voted as the #87 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
  • The long tracking shot in the Copa took seven takes. One take was ruined because Henny Youngman forgot his lines. According to Illeana Douglas, Scorsese was inspired by the long Steadicam shot in The Untouchables (1987).
  • While Robert De Niro was not yet committed to the project, Martin Scorsese courted William Petersen for the role of Jimmy Conway. Petersen turned it down.
  • Mike Starr played the same role in The 10 Million Dollar Getaway (1991), a Jimmy Burke telling of the Lufthansa heist portion of this movie.
  • Jimmy Burke, on whom Jimmy Conway was based, would've been eligible for parole in 2004. He died of lung cancer in 1996, while still in prison.
  • Al Pacino was offered the role of Jimmy Conway. 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.
  • While driving to and from the set, Ray Liotta listened to cassettes of interviews that Nicholas Pileggi did with Henry Hill. Liotta noted that Hill casually discussed murders and other crimes while eating potato chips.
  • During one of the final scenes, 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".
  • At first, producer Irwin Winkler disagreed when Martin Scorsese cast Ray Liotta as Henry Hill. One night, Liotta approached Winkler in a restaurant and asked for a minute alone. They walked into the bar area, and Liotta told Winkler why he thought he was good for the role. Winkler called Scorsese the next day and told him to go ahead.
  • Ranked number two on the American Film Institute's list of the ten greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008.
  • After Joe Pesci's mother saw the film, she told him the movie was good, then asked him if he had to curse so much.
  • According to Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Tina Sinatra put a fake severed horse head in his trailer, an homage to The Godfather (1972), as an initiation into Mafioso films.
  • The studio was initially very nervous about the film, due to its extreme violence and language. The film reportedly received the worst preview response in the studio's history. Martin Scorsese said that "the numbers were so low, it was funny." Nevertheless, the film was released without alteration to overwhelming critical acclaim, cementing Scorsese's reputation as one of America's foremost filmmakers.
  • Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi collaborated on the 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."
  • According to Henry Hill, whose life was the basis for the book and film, Joe Pesci's portrayal of Tommy DeSimone was 90-99% accurate, with one notable exception; the real Tommy DeSimone was massively built.
  • 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. Patty Duke said "Thank you" in 1963 when she won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Miracle Worker (1962). Louie Psihoyos said "Thank you" in 2010 when he won Best Documentary for The Cove (2009). Gloria Grahame and Alfred Newman both said "Thank you very much." in 1953. William Holden said "Thank you. Thank you." in 1954. Alfred Hitchcock said "Thank you. Very much indeed." when he won an Honorary Oscar in 1968.
  • The film, told from Henry Hill's perspective, portrays him as a major player in the world of organized crime. Real-life gangsters of that era have said that Hill was a minor figure, and more of a hanger-on like most of the other guys who took part in the Lufthansa heist (apart from Jimmy Burke, who was an important Mafia associate).
  • In The Real Goodfella (2006), which aired in the UK, 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 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.
  • 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."
  • Bobby Vinton was played by his son Robbie Vinton, who lip-synched to his father's recording.
  • The painting that Tommy's mother shows to Tommy, Jimmy, and Henry, is based on a picture from the November 1978 National Geographic.
  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #92 Greatest USA Movie of All Time.
  • Originally, Martin Scorsese planned to make this before The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). When funding for the religious film finally materialized, he decided to postpone this film.
  • At Martin Scorsese's request, associates of the actual people were always on the set of the film, giving helpful and essential information about the life, people, settings, and moods.
  • Martin Scorsese saw this as the third film in an unplanned trilogy of films that examined the lives of Italian-Americans "from slightly different angles".
  • (Cameo) Glenn Taranto: the young "extra" carrying a J&B box off the truck and into the Bamboo Lounge.
  • Ray Liotta turned down the part of Harvey Dent in Batman (1989) in order to make this movie.
  • The M.P.A.A. ordered ten frames of blood removed from the film before granting it an R rating.
  • Louis Eppolito wrote "Mafia Cop", a true story about growing up in a mafia family and becoming an NYPD officer. In April 2006, he was convicted of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, and racketeering for working as a mafia informant and hitman. The conviction was overturned due to a technicality, then reinstated on appeal in 2008. In 2009, he was sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison.
  • Although Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi collaborated on the screenplay (and received Oscar nominations for doing so), much of the film's eventual dialogue was improvised by the cast.
  • A few scenes include taxis with a real phone number on the side. They're from Four Ones, a real cab service in Glendale, Queens, New York.
  • (Cameo) Joseph Bono: Mikey Franzese, who appears briefly as the camera pans through the Bamboo Lounge near the start of the movie. Mikey's only line is, "I haven't saw that guy. Yeah, I wanna see him."
  • "Fuck" and its derivatives are used 321 times, an average of 2.04 per minute. Joe Pesci says about half of them. The script 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, it 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.
  • Jimmy Conway was based on gangster Jimmy Burke, who was born James Conway.
  • For the famous "Layla" montage, Martin Scorsese played the "piano coda" section of the song during the shooting of each scene, so that certain bars of the piano piece would match up with certain shots.
  • The later life of Henry Hill, after he enters the Witness Protection Program, was also adapted, more humorously, into My Blue Heaven (1990) the same year. Appropriately, that film was written by Nora Ephron, who is Nicholas Pileggi's wife.
  • Martin Scorsese reportedly didn't want Ray Liotta to have contact with the real Henry Hill before filming, because he had never directed Liotta before, and didn't want Hill to influence Liotta.
  • The film's soundtrack did not include many of the songs featured in the film, mostly the tracks played when Henry rushes around trying to make his drug deal. The songs sampled are, in order, "Jump Into the Fire" by Harry Nilsson, "Memo From Turner" by Mick Jagger, "Magic Bus" by The Who (from the Live at Leeds album), "Monkey Man" by The Rolling Stones, "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters, "What is Life" by George Harrison, "Mannish Boy" again, and "Toad" by Cream.
  • According to Ray Liotta on the Special Edition DVD, Sean Penn was also considered for Henry Hill.
  • This was the last film Martin Scorsese shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, until his return to 1.85:1 with Hugo (2011).
  • Barry Sonnenfeld took over as cinematographer for the last few days of filming, when Michael Ballhaus had to leave to shoot Postcards from the Edge (1990).
  • The name "Tommy DeVito" is a nod to Tommy DeVito, the lead guitarist of The Four Seasons, with whom Joe Pesci was friends.
  • Every one of Robert De Niro's outfits had a watch and a pinkie ring to go with it.
  • According to Nicholas Pileggi, some mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to scenes. The mobsters gave Warner Bros. fake Social Security numbers, and no one knows how they received their paychecks.
  • John Malkovich was considered for Jimmy Conway, but turned it down. Three years later, he took the role of Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire (1993), which Robert De Niro turned down, along with Jack Nicholson.
  • Ray Liotta's mother died of cancer during filming. Liotta says that he used his anger over losing his mother for certain scenes, the pistol-whipping scene in particular.
  • Lorraine Bracco demanded that real jewelry be used for Karen's dresser. The production designer rented expensive gold and jewels that were protected by armed guards.
  • Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene 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.
  • According to Debi Mazar, when her character 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.
  • For the scene 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 was real.
  • According to Ray Liotta, 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.
  • Paul Sorvino wanted to drop out of the role of Paul "Paulie" Cicero three days before filming began, because he felt that he lacked the cold personality to play the character. He called his agent and asked to be released from the film. Sorvino's agent told him to think about it for one day before making a final decision. That night, Sorvino looked in the mirror and was frightened by the look on his face. He realized that that look was the look he needed to play Paulie.
  • The first scene filmed was the Morrie's Wigs commercial. Martin Scorsese was inspired by a low-budget commercial that ran in New York City for a replacement window company. Scorsese contacted the company and found that the spokesperson in the ad was Stephen R. Pacca, who owned the company and created the ad himself. Pacca was hired to write, direct, and edit the commercial for Morrie's Wigs, so it could look like an authentic local ad.
  • The film's name was changed from "Wiseguy" to avoid confusion with both the television series Wiseguy (1987) and Brian De Palma's similarly titled film. Charles Scorsese, Catherine Scorsese, and Frank Vincent appear in Wise Guys (1986) and this movie.
  • Joe Pesci was in his forties at the time of filming. Tommy DeSimone, Pesci's character's inspiration, was in his twenties.
  • Ray Liotta came into view for the main lead after Martin Scorsese saw him in Something Wild (1986) and Field of Dreams (1989), and especially loved his "explosive energy" in the former film. According to Liotta, the casting process took over a year, and he had to audition several times. The deal was finally sealed during the Venice Film Festival, which Liotta and Scorsese were visiting. Scorsese was protected by bodyguards after receiving threats from religious groups, due to The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). When Liotta wanted to talk to Scorsese about the role again, the bodyguards kept pushing him back. When Scorsese noticed that Liotta remained very calm under this, he knew he had found the right leading man. The real Henry Hill was known for being a calm and silent observer than an aggressive responder.
  • Lorraine Bracco's daughter with Harvey Keitel, Stella, plays Henry daughter who was too shy to give Paulie a kiss when they arrive at his house for dinner.
  • Christopher Serrone, who played young Henry, wore blue contact lenses to match Ray Liotta's blue eyes. Serrone's eyes are actually brown.
  • The painting that Joe Pesci's character's mother brings out was actually painted by "Wiseguy" author Nicholas Pileggi's mother.
  • After the real Henry Hill's death on June 12, 2012, Ray Liotta claimed that he only had a few meetings with Hill, and never got to know him well.
  • Ellen Barkin was considered for the role of Karen Hill.
  • Alec Baldwin auditioned for the role of Henry Hill.
  • When the camera cranes up to reveal the dead bodies in the pink Cadillac, the piano exit of Derek & The Dominos' "Layla" starts to play. Originally played in C major, the tape speed of the coda was increased during mixing. The resulting pitch is somewhere between C and C sharp.
  • Joe Pesci and Tommy DeVito are both featured as characters in the musical and film Jersey Boys (2014). At one point in that film, Joey remarks "Funny how?", just like Tommy in this film.
  • Robert De Niro was offered either the role of Jimmy "The Gent" Conway, or Tommy DeVito. He chose the former.
  • The phone number for Morrie's wig shop is 555-HAIR (555-4247).
  • Siskel & Ebert named this as their favorite movie of 1990.
  • This was the first Martin Scorsese film for which Saul Bass designed the titles.
  • When Frank Vincent went to meet Martin Scorsese about being cast in the film, Scorsese asked Vincent which character he wanted to play, and he said he wanted the role of Paulie. Scorsese then said "Don't play Paulie, play Billy Batts."
  • According to Martin Scorsese, Marlon Brando tried to persuade him to not make the film.
  • While directing his mother Catherine Scorsese, Martin didn't tell her that her character's son had just killed someone, and the body was in the trunk of his car. He only told her that her son was home for dinner, and to cook for them. James Conway is eating an Irish meal.
  • In a interview for Reddit, Kevin Corrigan revealed how he was cast. Corrigan first learned about the film in 1989, when he read about it a magazine. He called his agent, told him he was a big fan of Martin Scorsese, and insisted that he become a part of this movie. He auditioned for Scorsese a month later, and before leaving, told Scorsese how much he loved his work. Corrigan said "Filming Goodfellas, for me, was like getting to be a bat boy for the Yankees during the World Series. I didn't feel like an actual player on the team, but I was given a job to do, and I was allowed to be on the field. It was the greatest feeling I had up to that point. I was 20."
  • Robert De Niro was so obsessed with authenticity that during the infamous dinner scene, he asked how the real Jimmy would apply his ketchup. This eventually got passed to Henry Hill, who informed De Niro.
  • In 2000, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for the National Film Registry, for being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant".
  • Jimmy Conway actually went by the name "Jimmy Burke". In the book "Wiseguy", the only known piece of information on Jimmy's actual family is that he "was born to a woman named Conway".
  • In the movie, mob chief Paulie had a brother named Tuddy. In real life, Paulie had one older brother Lenny, and a few younger brothers; Tuddy was the youngest.
  • Tuddy walked with a limp because of a prosthetic leg. He lost the real one in the Korean War.
  • In the movie, Henry and Tommy hung around a lot. In the book though, Tommy and Henry knew each other, but, the latter actually hung out more with Paulie, Jr., son of mob chief Paul "Paulie" Vario, who is Paul "Paulie" Cicero in the movie.
  • Lorraine Bracco's two real-life daughters played Judy Hill at different ages. Margaux Guerard played ten-year-old Judy; Stella Keitel played her at age four or five.
  • In the DVD commentary, Henry Hill said that he still had nightmares about when he, Tommy, and Jimmy murdered Billy Batts.
  • John Gotti's lawyer, Bruce Cutler, was not a fan of the film, and told Newsday in 1990 that John Gotti wouldn't have liked it either, saying, "He is too intelligent to waste his time to see nonsensical movies like that."
  • The film 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."
  • The "How am I funny?" scene 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. Scorsese didn't include the scene in the shooting script, so that Pesci and Ray Liotta's interactions would elicit genuinely surprised reactions from the supporting cast.
  • Henry Hill was paid roughly $550,000 for the film. Hill considered it chump change compared to the $15,000 to $40,000 a week he made during his gangster days. He claims he blew almost all of his mob money on partying and a "degenerate" gambling problem.
  • In October 2014, Frank Sivero filed a $250 million lawsuit against The Simpsons (1989) for using his looks and mannerisms to create a little-seen Springfield mob associate named Louie. According to Sivero, the writers lived next door to him in Sherman Oaks in 1989. Louie debuted on the show in Bart the Murderer (1991). As of 2017, he has appeared in 21 episodes.
  • Henry Hill's testimony against some of the most powerful Lucchese crime family associates led to over 50 convictions. As Hill learned at the very beginning of his career, Mafia rule number one is "never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut." In 2010, he told The Telegraph "It's surreal, totally surreal, to be here. I never thought I'd reach this wonderful age." He theorized that he hadn't been murdered because "there's nobody from my era alive." Following his death in 2012, The Guardian hypothesized that fame or bureaucratic disorganization in the criminal underworld might have been the reason.
  • According to Irwin Winkler, Tom Cruise "was discussed" for the role of Henry Hill. According to producer Barbara De Fina, Madonna was "in the mix" to the extent that Martin Scorsese scouted her at a performance of David Mamet's "Speed The Plow" on Broadway.
  • The film takes place from 1955 to 1980.
  • Ray Liotta was 35 during filming. Henry Hill was 21 when he stared dating Karen in the film.
  • Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • Compton's Most Wanted sampled the lines, "For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted.. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked, everybody knew the rules" and "But sometimes, even the people who didn't get out of line, they got whacked. Hits just became a hazard for some of the guys. Shooting people was a normal thing, no big deal" for their song "Def Wish II".
  • During one take while filming the scene in which Karen points a gun in Henry's face, Ray Liotta threw Lorraine Bracco off the bed, and the gun flew out of Bracco's hand and hit director of photography Michael Ballhaus in the head.
  • Michael Ballhaus said that the scene when Henry walks across the street to pistol-whip Karen's neighbor was the most violent scene that he had ever filmed in his career.
  • The casting session was held at Rao's Restaurant in New York City.
  • Ray Liotta was intimidated by Robert De Niro. He really wanted De Niro to like him. De Niro put Liotta at ease, saying, "Don't worry about it. This is all going to work out."
  • According to Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese knew exactly how he wanted the movie to look from the beginning. They wrote scenes with certain shots and camera angles in mind.
  • Martin Scorsese is a big fan of the Copacabana. He went there on his prom night.
  • Ray Liotta joked that Warner Brothers would have rather cast Eddie Murphy than him, because of how little-known he was.
  • Robert De Niro pored over Nicholas Pileggi's unused research to prepare for his role.
  • Nicholas Pileggi talked to Henry Hill constantly while writing the script with Martin Scorsese. He says the voice-overs are the key to the movie, and that they are almost exact quotes from Hill.
  • According to Lorraine Bracco, Martin Scorsese told her to think of Karen as the "movie star" of the group.
  • Ray Liotta has said Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci "were the glitter and I was the glue."
  • Lorraine Bracco found the shoot emotionally difficult because it was such a male-dominated cast. she realized if she didn't make her "work important, it would probably end up on the cutting room floor."
  • When it came to the relationship between Henry and Karen, Lorraine Bracco saw no difference between an abused wife and her character.
  • The long tracking shot through the Copacabana nightclub came about because the filmmakers couldn't get permission to go in the short way, forcing them to go around the back. Martin Scorsese decided to film the sequence in one unbroken shot in order to symbolize that Henry's entire life was ahead of him. "It's his seduction of her (Karen), and it's also the lifestyle seducing him". This sequence was shot eight times.
  • Henry's last day as a wiseguy was the hardest part of the film 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.
  • The cast didn't meet Henry Hill until a few weeks before the film premiered. Ray Liotta met him in an undisclosed city. Hill had seen the film, and told the actor that he loved it.
  • Paul Sorvino had no problem finding his character's voice and walk, but finding "that kernel of coldness and absolute hardness that is antithetical to my nature, except when my family is threatened" was challenging.
  • Martin Scorsese was inspired by Jules and Jim (1962), particularly the use of voice-over and freeze-frame.
  • According to Joe Pesci, improvisation and ad-libbing 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.
  • Martin Scorsese liked Lorraine Bracco, largely due to how well she related to Karen. She's not Jewish, but she grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.
  • Martin Scorsese wanted to use Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way" at the end, but Sinatra would not allow Scorsese to acquire the rights to his version of the song. He had to use the version by Sid Vicious instead.
  • Nicholas Pileggi said that he and Martin Scorsese each wrote their own outline for the screenplay. Pileggi said that when they read each other's outlines, they realized that they were both very similar.
  • To research her role, Lorraine Bracco tried to get close to a mob wife. She was unable to because they exist in a very tight-knit community. She decided not to meet the real Karen because she thought "it would be better if the creation came from me. I used her life with her parents as an emotional guideline for the role."
  • According to Edward McDonald, in the last courtroom scene, the actor who was going to portray the judge was white. However, when Martin Scorsese found out that the real trial judge was black, he decided to cast a black man, partly for accuracy, partly because of criticism for portraying black people in a negative way in his films.
  • The film is included in Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
  • Henry states that he and Jimmy could never be "made", because they weren't of full Italian descent. That rule was changed in 2000 by the Commission (the five New York City families). A man can now be "made" if his father is of Italian descent, and his last name is Italian. That would still exclude Henry and Jimmy; Henry's father in the film was Irish, and Jimmy's surname is not Italian.
  • The real Jimmy Burke was friends with Tommy's father and uncle.
  • According to the book "Wiseguy", Paul Vario was so secretive about the Lufthansa heist that he didn't even tell his brother that his crew was responsible. When Tuddy mentioned the large score made by some crew, Henry Hill was amazed by Paul Vario's silence.
  • In the book "Wiseguy", Henry Hill noted that, despite Paul Vario being a big and overbearing man, he could move really fast. He mentioned that Vario once successfully chased someone with a baseball bat.
  • Ray Liotta had said on a documentary special that his first person narration for the film was often done by him actually saying his narration to another person in a room. That way it felt more authentic, and made it easier for him to tell a story.
  • According to the book "Wiseguy", when Henry Hill angrily approached Karen's jealous neighbor who harassed her, the neighbor was with two of his brothers who each owned Corvettes. In the film, only one Corvette is present. Karen Hill's account of the event in the book was Henry had to be escorted in his car by police cars out of the neighborhood after the incident.
  • In the book "Wiseguy", Henry Hill noted how Mafia-run neighborhoods could be surprisingly safe. On one occasion, a thug followed an old woman home and forced himself into her apartment. Hill said the entire neighborhood was watching, and within a minute, numerous people rushed over to the woman's apartment, grabbed the thug and assaulted him.
  • The film shows Karen Hill visiting Henry Hill in the prison visitor area. In reality, Karen visited Henry numerous times on the outskirts of the prison grounds. Henry worked as a farm hand on the grounds. They even had a picnic together one night, where she brought him rare meats and wine.
  • In the book, "Wiseguy", Henry Hill said he supported Karen Hill and the family from prison by dealing in drugs using contacts he made in prison. Karen was even smuggled drugs when she visited the prison. Since Henry was in jail when Karen went to visit the people that owed Henry money, they refused to pay or pled poverty.
  • Director of photography Michael Ballhaus said that he decided to shoot the film was because it was directed by Martin Scorsese, and he filmed it as a favor. He also said the material was not something he would normally be interested in filming, and if it had been directed by someone else he wouldn't have filmed it.
  • The character James Conway is James (Jimmy) "The Gent" Burke's real birth name.
  • Roger Ebert called this "the best mob movie ever."
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
  • Suzanne Shepherd and Mike Starr appeared in Uncle Buck (1989).
  • Filming began Monday, May 1,1989.
  • Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Frank Vincent appeared in Cop Land (1997).
  • Sean Penn was considered for the role of Henry Hill.
  • This was the first film from the 1990s to be inducted into the National Film Registry.
  • Robert De Niro and Chuck Low also appear in The King of Comedy (1982), The Mission (1986) and Sleepers (1996).
  • While Tommy, Henry, and Jimmy are having a late supper at Tommy's mother's house, Jimmy pours ketchup on his meal. Henry remembered Jimmy liking ketchup over all his meals, including his steaks.
  • This is the first of two films starring Illeana Douglas and Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese. The second was Cape Fear (1991).
  • Joe Pesci and Samuel L. Jackson appeared in Betsy's Wedding (1990).
  • Chuck Low is also Robert De Niro's real estate agent. He has appeared in other De Niro films, including The Mission (1986).
  • The helicopter that follows Henry around all day before getting arrested was an Aérospatiale AS355 TwinStar.
  • Robert De Niro gets top billing, despite the fact that Ray Liotta is the film's narrator and main character.
  • Martin Scorsese said John Wayne's final confrontation in Red River (1948) influenced the pistol-whipping scene.
  • Paulie's concerns about drug traffic and his reluctance to use telephones indicate that he knows about RICO conspiracy charges and wiretaps.
  • Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin and John Travolta were considered for the role of Henry Hill.
  • William Petersen was the second choice for the role of Jimmy Conway if Robert De Niro were to turn it down.
  • Joseph D'Onofrio plays the young version of Tommy DeVito and not Joe Pesci, while Robert De Niro plays James Conway in all of his vital stages, because Conway is older than DeVito. Pesci is 6 months older than De Niro.
  • Joe Pesci, Susan Hayward, Estelle Parsons, Charlize Theron, and Forest Whitaker are the only actors to win an Academy Award for portraying real-life killers. Hayward portrayed Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958). Parsons portrayed Blanche Barrow, an accomplice to murder, in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Theron portrayed serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003). Whitaker portrayed dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006).
  • Other than some of the deceased and the law enforcement personnel, most of the main characters last names were changed, presumably for fear of libel suits. For example, Jimmy Conway's real name was Jimmy Burke, his mother's last name was Conway. Tommy DeVito's real name was Tommy DeSimone. Paul Cicero's real name was Paul Vario. Morris "Morrie" Kessler's real name was Marty Krugman. His name was censored with bleeps in the DVD Commentary by the real Henry Hill and the prosecutor, Ed McDonald, who was instrumental in getting Hill into the Federal Witness Protection Program.
  • Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Frank Vincent and Tony Sirico (who played Tony Stacks) would reunite seven years later in another crime thriller, 1997's Cop Land. Sirico, who would play a mobster named Toy Torillo, was not an active character in the film, but was seen in newspaper clippings and surveillance photos.
  • The character of Frankie Carbone, like some mobsters depicted in the movie, was a fictional composite of a mobster named Angelo Sepe (who was actually present with Tommy DeVito/DeSimone in the scene of Parnell "Stacks" Edwards') and a small-time drug dealer and con man named Richard Eaton (the infamous trailer freezer scene). Eaton fleeced Jimmy Conway/Burke out of $250,000, then was murdered; the money came out of the Lufthansa robbery. In real life, this was the only murder that Burke was ever convicted of despite committing countless murders.
  • Though the Billy Batts welcome-home party and murder scene in the film was depicted as happening on the same night of June 11, 1970 in The Suite (a lounge owned by Henry Hill), the actual party and altercation between Batts and Tommy DeVito/DeSimone occurred in Jimmy Conway/Burke's hangout Robert's Lounge, two weeks before. Prior to Billy Batts' imprisonment on narcotics trafficking, Batts and Burke had a partnership in a loan sharking racket.

Spoilers

  • When Paulie confronts Henry after Hill's released from prison, Paul Sorvino improvised the slap to Ray Liotta's face, hence Liotta's reaction.
  • While filming the scene in which his character is killed by Joe Pesci, Michael Imperioli broke a glass in his hand and had to be rushed to the emergency room. When doctors saw what appeared to be a gunshot wound in his chest, they tried to treat it. When Imperioli told them what was really up, he was made to wait for three hours. Martin Scorsese told Imperioli that some day he'd be telling that story on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992). The prediction came true in March 2000.
  • When Henry and Karen Hill are negotiating to enter the Witness Protection Program, former U.S. Attorney Edward McDonald played himself, reenacting what he did in reality.
  • After the premiere, Henry Hill went around and revealed his true identity. In response, the government kicked him out of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
  • Henry states that Tommy was shot in the face so that his mother could not give him an open-casket funeral. Tommy's real-life counterpart, Tommy DeSimone, was killed in January 1979. His remains have never been recovered.
  • Martin Scorsese's mother, Catherine, played Tommy's mother. She and the cast ad-libbed the dinner scene. Scorsese's father, Charles, played Vinny the prisoner, who put too many onions in the tomato sauce, and later murdered Tommy.
  • The scene in which Tommy kills Spider was mostly improvised. The only line that was said as scripted was Spider's "Why don't you go fuck yourself, Tommy".
  • In January 2014, several New York City organized crime figures were arrested as part of a federal investigation into a series of unsolved crimes, including the 1978 Lufthansa robbery at JFK Airport that netted over $6 million in cash and jewelry.
  • The house where Tommy was killed is located at 80th Street and Shore Road, in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York. The interior was re-created on a soundstage after the scenes shot on-location were deemed unacceptable.
  • Martin Scorsese's father appeared in the film. He is one of the two men who take Tommy DeVito to be killed. He is not the one who pulled the trigger. He earlier appeared in prison, where he made spaghetti sauce. The character played by Martin Scorsese's mother is often seen making spaghetti sauce outside of prison. Off-camera, they pressed the collars on all of the suits.
  • As he enters the Witness Protection program, Henry requests not to be sent to a cold place. In the final scene, Henry picks up the Youngstown Vindicator, the local newspaper for Youngstown, Ohio, which gets very cold in the winter.
  • In the book "Wiseguy", Henry Hill cites a few reasons why Tommy was killed. The main reason, of course, was because he killed Billy Batts and a guy named Foxy. Another chilling reason is probably because he once stated that mob chief Paulie "didn't like having Tommy around".
  • The film leaves out a crime that eventually became a national sports story: Boston College's 1978-79 point-shaving scandal. The only reference is when Morrie asks, just before he is killed, "Did you hear about the points we were shaving up in Boston?"
  • Joe Pesci didn't judge his character, but found the scene in which he kills Spider for talking back hard to do. He had trouble justifying the action until he forced himself to feel the way Tommy did.
  • Late in his life, Henry Hill launched GoodfellaHenry.com, a website devoted to the film and life in the mob. Many of the people visiting the site derided Hill as a snitch. Hill died in 2012. As of fall 2016, the site is still up selling memorabilia from the film.
  • Joe Pesci's character kills Frank Vincent's character. In Casino (1995), Vincent's character kills Pesci's character.
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