GoodFellas is a biographical crime film released in 1990 in the United States. It was directed by Martin Scorsese, co-written by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese himself, and produced by Irwin Winkler.
This film is one of my favourite gangster / crime movies of all time. I’ve probably watched this film at least 10 times, but it never gets old. The film features performances by Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.
There’s probably a lot that you don’t know about this film, but today my aim is to change that…
Here are 22 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know about GoodFellas
1. It is a cinematic adaptation of the 1985 nonfiction book titled Wiseguy authored by Nicholas Pileggi (who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film).
2. Henry Hill, upon whose life the book and film were based, stated that Joe Pesci’s depiction of Tommy DeSimone was highly faithful, ranging from 90% to 99% accuracy. However, there was one notable difference: the actual Tommy DeSimone had a substantially more muscular physique.
3. According to Nicholas Pileggi, certain mobsters were brought in as extras for GoodFellas. This was done to add an authentic touch to the scenes. These mobsters provided Warner Bros. with counterfeit Social Security numbers, and the method by which they received their pay remains a mystery to this day.
4. The Iconic “How am I funny?” scene in GoodFellas is actually based on something that really happened to Joe Pesci back in the day. Picture this: Young Pesci working in a restaurant, he tells a mobster that the guy is funny. But instead of a warm response, he gets something less than enthusiastic. So, Pesci shared this hilarious real-life story with Martin Scorsese, and guess what? Scorcese decided it had to go in the movie!
Here’s the fun part: Scorsese didn’t even put the scene in the shooting script. Why? So that when Pesci and Ray Liotta did their thing on screen, the reactions from the rest of the cast would be genuinely surprised. Talk about keeping things spontaneous!
5. So, Robert De Niro, being the method actor he is, had a thing about using real money in that scene where his character Jimmy doles out the cash. He just didn’t like the feel of fake money in his hands.
The prop master, probably wanting to keep Robert De Niro happy, handed him $5,000 of his own cash. But after every take, it was like a little money party on set because nobody could split until all that cash was back and counted. Gotta keep tabs on those Benjamins, right?
6. In “The Real Goodfella” back in 2006 (which played on UK screens), Henry Hill spilled the beans. He said that Robert De Niro was like on his speed dial, calling him like seven or eight times every single day. What were they chatting about, you wonder? Well, it was all about Jimmy’s character, down to the nitty-gritty details like how he’d hold a cigarette. De Niro was all about that authenticity when it came to GoodFellas.
7. According to Ray Liotta, Martin Scorsese was seriously hands-on when it came to the cast’s wardrobe. He even took it upon himself to tie Ray Liotta’s tie just to make sure it was spot-on for the film’s setting.
8. After Joe Pesci’s mother watched GoodFellas, she expressed her approval, describing it as praiseworthy. Nevertheless, she raised a question with her son, questioning the need for the extensive use of profanity in his performance.
9. The F word and its variations make a whopping 321 appearances in GoodFellas, averaging about 2.04 instances per minute. Interestingly, Joe Pesci delivers approximately half of those colorful lines. Originally, the script intended to use the word 70 times, but a lot of the dialogue ended up being improvised during shooting, causing the profanity count to skyrocket.
Back when the film hit theaters, it held the record for the most profanity in a movie. However, by 2020, it had slipped to the 15th spot on the list. The Wolf of Wall Street, another Martin Scorsese-directed flick, now sits at the impressive third place in that profanity chart.
10, Ray Liotta turned down the part of Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie in order to make GoodFellas.
11. The line “As far back as I could remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster” was voted as number 20 in The 100 Greatest Movie Lines by Premiere in 2007.
12. Debi Mazar has revealed an interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit: When her character takes a tumble after meeting Henry, it wasn’t scripted; she accidentally tripped over the camera dolly track. Surprisingly, Martin Scorsese decided to keep that take because it gave the impression that her character was overwhelmed by Henry, adding an authentic touch to the scene.
13. Every day on his way to the set, Ray Liotta made it a routine to listen to tapes of FBI wiretaps featuring the real Henry Hill. This was his way of immersing himself in character for that day’s filming.
14. GoodFellas and The Sopranos have numerous connections, including over two dozen actors who appeared in both productions, with notable names like Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli. David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, holds GoodFellas in high regard, calling it a significant influence on his work.
In The Sopranos, the character Christopher lists GoodFellas as one of his inspirations for screenwriting. Additionally, during a conversation about films with Father Intintola, Carmela mentions Tony’s preference for The Godfather Part II over the original, prompting the priest to inquire where Tony ranks GoodFellas.
15. Despite its reputation for violence, GoodFellas actually features a relatively small number of on-screen deaths, totaling just 10.
16. In the scene where Janice the babysitter takes out an airline ticket from her handbag, you’ll notice a black bar covering it. This was done because the producers were unable to obtain permission to use the American Airlines logo. The airline company chose not to be associated with the portrayal of drug trafficking in the film.
17. The role of Jimmy Conway was offered to Al Pacino, but he declined it out of concern for being typecast. Interestingly, later that same year, he took on the role of a gangster, Big Boy Caprice, in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. In hindsight, Pacino has openly expressed regret over his decision.
18. The M.P.A.A. ordered ten frames of blood removed from GoodFellas before granting it an R rating.
19. GoodFellas was made on a budget of $25 million and grossed $47.1 million at the box office.
20. In 2000, the US Library of Congress selected the film for the National Film Registry, for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”.
21. During the 1991 Oscars, GoodFellas found itself competing against Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves. Ultimately, GoodFellas secured only one win, which was Joe Pesci’s accolade for Best Supporting Actor.
22. Following the film’s premiere, Henry Hill was filled with such pride that he openly disclosed his true identity, proudly proclaiming that the film depicted his own life. This caused the FBI to take action, resulting in his removal from the Witness Protection Program.
Well, there you have it, 22 Interesting Facts you might not have known about GoodFellas. If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment below.
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