Actor Ray Liotta, who rose to fame as a jittery wannabe gangster in Martin Scorcese's classic film Goodfellas, has died. He was 67.
Liotta's publicist, Jennifer Allen, told BuzzFeed News he was found Thursday morning after dying in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was shooting an upcoming movie, Dangerous Waters. Allen said she believed he was just days away from wrapping production on the film about a family sailing holiday gone awry.
Deadline was first to report the actor's death. The cause was not immediately clear.
Known for his rugged looks and stern demeanor, Liotta made a career playing tough guys, mostly in supporting roles. (Growing up in New Jersey, he had imagined a life for himself in construction, not acting.)
His first major part was in Something Wild (1986) playing the ex-husband of Melanie Griffith's character, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. "A newcomer named Ray Liotta is mesmerizing as the evil husband with vengeance on his mind," film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his original review.
Three years later, he starred in the baseball film Field of Dreams, appearing as the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, a famous player from the early 1900s. Despite the movie's enduring popularity, Liotta said as recently as last year that he had still never seen it.
But Liotta secured his stardom playing real-life mobster Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990), Scorcese's mafia masterpiece that was largely credited with revolutionizing mob stories onscreen. "If you got one movie that people remember, that’s great. If you got two, that’s fantastic,” Liotta told the Guardian last year of his most famous role.
The film also starred Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, two actors who also became synonymous with the genre.
Lorraine Bracco, who played Liotta's wife in the movie, paid tribute to her former costar on Thursday after his death.
Although he never truly achieved regular top-billing as an A-lister, Liotta starred in many action and crime films across his career, including Blow (2001), Hannibal (2001), and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014).
In recent years, he played a divorce lawyer in Marriage Story (2019) and yet another mafia figure in the movie prequel to The Sopranos, 2021's The Many Saints of Newark.
Liotta is survived by his daughter Karsen (with ex-wife Michelle Grace) and fiancé Jacy Nittolo, to whom he proposed in 2020.