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Entertainment

Ray Liotta, ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Field of Dreams’ star, dies

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By Lindsey Bahr And Martin Adames

Ray Liotta, the blue-eyed actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” has died. He was 67.

Liotta’s publicist, Jen Allen, said he was in the Dominican Republic shooting a new movie and didn’t wake up Thursday morning. An official at the Dominican Republic’s National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorized to speak to the media confirmed the death of Ray Liotta and said his body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue.

Robert De Niro, in an emailed statement, said “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too way young to have left us. May he Rest in Peace.”

Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen Hill in “Goodfellas” tweeted Thursday that she was, “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.”

Alessandro Nivola, who recently appeared with Liotta in “The Sopranos” prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark” wrote, “I feel so lucky to have squared off against this legend in one of his final roles. The scenes we did together were among the all time highlights of my acting career. He was dangerous, unpredictable, hilarious, and generous with his praise for other actors. Too soon.”

Seth Rogen, who Liotta acted with in the 2009 comedy “Observe and Report” tweeted, “He was such a lovely, talented and hilarious person. Working with him was one of the great joys of my career and we made some of my favorite scenes I ever got to be in. A true legend of immense skill and grace.”

The Newark, New Jersey, native was born in 1954 and adopted at age six months out of an orphanage by a township clerk and an auto parts owner. Liotta always assumed he was mostly Italian — the movies did too. But later in life while searching for his birth parents, he discovered he’s actually Scottish.

Though he grew up focused on playing sports, including baseball, during his senior year of high school, the drama teacher asked him if he wanted to be in a play, which he agreed to on a lark. Whether he knew it or not at the time, it planted a seed, though he still assumed he’d end up working construction. And later, at the University of Miami he picked drama and acting because they had no math requirement attached. He would often say in interviews that he only started auditioning for plays because a pretty girl told him to. But it set him on a course. After graduation, he got an agent and soon he got his first big break on the soap opera “Another World.”

It would take a few years for him to land his first big movie role, in Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” as Melanie Griffith’s character’s hotheaded ex-convict husband Ray. He was 30 years old at the time and hadn’t had a steady job in five years. In an interview in 1993, he told The Associated Press that he wanted to get the part on his own merits even though he knew Griffith. When that didn’t work, he “phoned Melanie.

“I hated doing it, because that’s politics for me; calling someone to help you out. But I kind of realize that’s part of what it’s all about,” he said.

The turn earned him a Golden Globe nomination. A few years later, he would get the memorable role of the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams.” Though it moved many to tears, it wasn’t without its critics. Liotta remembered hearing a baseball announcer during a Mets game complain that he batted the opposite way Joe Jackson did.

“(Bleep) you! He didn’t come back from the dead either!” Liotta recalled thinking.

His most iconic role, as real life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” came shortly after. He and Scorsese had to fight for it though, with multiple auditions and pleas to the studio to cast the still relative unknown.

Roger Ebert, in his review, wrote that “Goodfellas” solidified Liotta (and Bracco) as “two of our best new movie actors.”

“He creates the emotional center for a movie that is not about the experience of being a Mafioso, but about the feeling,” Ebert continued.

In a 2012 interview, Liotta said that, “Henry Hill isn’t that edgy of a character. It’s really the other guys who are doing all the actual killings. The one physical thing he does do, when he goes after the guy who went after Karen — you know, most audiences, they actually like him for that.”

In the same interview, he marveled at how “Goodfellas” had a “life of its own” and has only grown over time.

“People watch it over and over, and still respond to it, and different ages come up, even today, teenagers come up to me and they really emotionally connect to it,” he said.

It didn’t matter the size of the role, or even the genre, Liotta always managed to stand out and steal scenes in both dramas and comedies, whether as Johnny Depp’s father in “Blow” or Adam Driver’s bullish divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.”

Mafiosos seemed to be his specialty (he even narrated an AMC docu-series called “The Making of the Mob”), though he was wary of being typecast. He turned down the part of Ralphie on “The Sopranos” because of it. But he’d still end up playing a mob type with James Gandolfini in Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly.” And later, he would pay his own ticket to audition for “The Many Saints of Newark.”

“I’m really not sure what made me so determined,” he told The Guardian last year. “But I was and luckily it all worked out.”

Liotta also often played various law enforcement types, from cops and detectives to federal agents in films as diverse as “Unlawful Entry,” “Cop Land,” “Narc,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Observe and Report.” Many were corrupt.

He got to be a victim of Hannibal Lecter in the 2001 film “Hannibal” and played Frank Sinatra in the TV movie “The Rat Pack,” which got him a Screen Actors Guild nomination. For gamers, he’s immortalized as the voice of Tommy Vercetti in the video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” He also starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in the series “Shades of Blue.”

Liotta has one daughter, Karsen, with ex-wife Michelle Grace and was engaged to be married to Jacy Nittolo at the time of his death.

“The business is rough, no matter where you’re at in your career,” Liotta said in 2012. “There’s always some reason for them to say no to you — that part of it is horrible… But the job itself — making people believe that what they’re seeing is really happening—that’s still a challenge, putting that puzzle together. You know, what can I say, I still like playing pretend. And it’s sure a fun way to make a living.”

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CRTC renews CBC licensing for another five years, tweaks its mandate

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By Sarah Ritchie in Ottawa

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Wednesday that it is renewing CBC’s licensing, with tweaks to its mandate that will make it spend money on programming produced by people with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized people and the LGBTQ community.

It’s also clarifying that it “expects the CBC to maintain local, regional and national news broadcasts in a crisis or emergency on all of its audiovisual and audio services.”

That’s in response to the broadcaster’s decision to replace local supper-hour and late newscasts across the country with its national programming in the early days of the pandemic.

CBC said at the time that it was dealing with staffing issues as some workers were off sick with COVID-19 and others were in isolation. The CRTC noted in its decision that the pandemic has increased demand for news, and “Canadians expect the CBC to disseminate and make available information in the event of an emergency.”

The CRTC is dropping the requirement for CBC to maintain minimum thresholds of local programming in urban markets where Canadians have multiple options, but it’s maintaining those thresholds in rural parts of the country.

The CBC asked to reduce the number of hours of local TV programming it needs to air per week in its English markets across the board, and to make that up in digital content.

The CRTC noted that actual hours of local programming on English TV stations dropped between 2014 and 2020, although they still meet the minimum requirements.

It said there is a higher risk that less local news would be broadcast in non-metropolitan markets if those requirements are dropped, naming “difficult access to high-speed internet” and “the lack of news bureaus in non-metropolitan areas” as reasons.

The commission says there has been a great deal of change in the media landscape since 2013, the last time the licence was renewed, and it’s making changes to the CBC mandate to align with that.

It’s setting out new rules to ensure the difference between news and information programming and “branded content” or advertising is clearly distinguished.

CBC will need to submit new reports to the CRTC on a range of topics including workforce diversity, privacy issues and perception and consultation.

The CRTC decision also noted the CBC’s digital streaming services for audio and video didn’t exist, or didn’t exist in their current form, when the last licensing agreement was made.

“As part of its proposal, the CBC requested that it be able to count hours of content exhibited on some of its (digital media broadcasting undertakings) toward meeting its overall content exhibition requirements,” the decision said.

However, the commission is instead including that digital content in the broadcaster’s spending requirements on Canadian programming, giving the CBC the flexibility to count the cost of online content toward those quotas.

CBC and Radio-Canada’s president and CEO said the broadcaster welcomes the CRTC announcement.

“We’re pleased that the CRTC has, for the first time ever, recognized the significant contribution of our digital streaming services … to the Canadian content ecosystem,” Catherine Tait said in a statement on Wednesday.

The main outcomes covered by the mandate include programming for Indigenous Peoples and diverse Canadians; creating and supporting access to Canadian content; ensuring access to local, regional and national news and information; accessibility of content; and accountability and transparency to the public.

Licences for radio, TV and multiplatform content in both English and French are valid until August 2027.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

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Cineplex introduces $1.50 booking fee for online ticket purchases

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TORONTO — Moviegoers could be paying a little extra for a seat at a Cineplex theatre this summer.

Canada’s largest film exhibitor says it has introduced a new $1.50 booking fee that applies to each ticket purchased through its mobile app and website.

The move comes as Cineplex representative Sarah Van Lange says the company looks to “further invest and evolve our digital infrastructure,” including website upgrades.

However, not everyone will have to pay the new service charge.

Cineplex Inc. says purchases made in-person at the box office, ticket kiosks, or concession stands will not be subject to the fee, while members of the Scene Plus rewards program will pay a reduced $1 per ticket.

Members of CineClub, the company’s monthly subscription program, will have the fee waived.

Service charges are a long-standing practice in the entertainment industry where concerts, live theatre and sporting events all add some form of a “convenience fee” to collect more revenue.

When Cineplex first introduced online ticket sales years ago, it charged a similar processing fee for each ticket. Eventually it eliminated the charge around the same time it began encouraging moviegoers to buy tickets in advance instead of waiting in line at the box office.

More recently, Cineplex has dabbled in other upcharge experiments that included charging an extra $2 for “prime seats” at a few of its busier theatres. It also tacked on an extra $1 to reserve seats at showings of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in 2017.

In the United States, most of the largest theatre chains already charge a fee for online ticket purchases.

Earlier this year U.S. chain AMC Theatres went a step further when it began testing “variable pricing” for tickets to the anticipated DC Comics movie “The Batman.” The new cost added around US$1.50 to each ticket in some cities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2022.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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