Goodfellas, which chronicles the rise and fall of real-life mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), is one of the finest movies ever made. The thrilling biopic was directed by Martin Scorsese, and upon its release in 1990, won five BAFTAs and was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.
These days, Martin Scorsese seems synonymous with gangster movies. But as part of an interview for the book Made Men, which charts Scorsese’s journey in making Goodfellas, the director admitted he had some doubts about making what’s one of his best movies.
It’s reassuring to know that even the best directors get nervous, and Scorsese revealed that when he became more uncertain about Goodfellas, he paid a visit to one of the generation’s best actors: Marlon Brando.
“During these times, I had misgivings about making another film about organized crime,” Scorsese admitted. “And [Brando] said, ‘You don’t wanna do that again.’”
Along with Goodfellas, several of Scorsese’s movies are set in the world of organized crime, including Mean Streets, The Departed, Gangs of New York, and Casino. At the time, only Mean Streets had come out, but it seems that was enough for Brando to believe going back there wasn’t the best move.
“I was going sour on [Goodfellas] a little bit,” Scorsese added. But everything changed after Michael Powell, director of The Red Shoes, read the director’s script for the film and urged him to proceed with what would become one of the best ’90s movies.
“Thelma [Scorsese’s editor] had read the script to Michael Powell,” he explained. “Michael was not a great fan of the gangster genre. And Michael called and told me, ‘You must do this.’ shifted me back into the original energy and original impulse to make the picture.”
Liotta’s performance alongside Scorsese’s direction would be enough to make Goodfellas a masterpiece, but put in an increasingly paranoid Robert De Niro and this was truly a classic in the making. Then you’ve got Joe Pesci – an embarrassment a riches that deserves every inch of its reputation.
For more on Scorsese’s new movie, check out our Killers of the Flower Moon review from Cannes Film Festival, wherein freelancer Luke Hearfield dubs the film “another masterpiece” by Scorsese. And if that’s got you in the Western mood, be sure to check out our guides to the best Westerns, best Clint Eastwood movies, and Yellowstone season 5 part 2.