The Many Saints of Newark star Alessandro Nivola felt "so lucky" to have worked with Ray Liotta in one of the legend's final movies. Nivola and Liotta starred in David Chase's The Sopranos prequel movie, which hit theaters last year. Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was shooting a new movie. He was 67.
"RIP Ray Liotta. I feel so lucky to have squared off against this legend in one of his final roles," Nivola, 49, wrote on Instagram, alongside a still from The Many Saints of Newark. "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."
Nivola played Dickie Moltisanti, Tony Soprano's mentor, in Many Saints. Liotta had a dual role as Dickie's father, "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti, and Hollywood Dick's twin brother, Salvatore "Sally" Moltisanti. In an interview with PopCulture.com last year, Liotta said it was "great" to finally join The Sopranos universe with such a challenging part.
"It was fun, and it happened out of the blue," Liotta said of the offer to star. "David just one day came up to me and said, 'Do you want to do this?' I said, 'Whoa, yeah, let me take this on. This'll be a fun little challenge."
As for Nivola, he told iNews that sharing scenes with Liotta scared him at first. "First of all, he was really from Newark and had probably had the closest experience to the world of the film of any of us. And also because he takes acting very seriously. He's extremely committed to it," Nivola explained last year. "I was really nervous, but two weeks into shooting, he sent me a text telling me that I reminded him of himself as Henry Hill [in Goodfellas]. That was just the greatest affirmation I could ever have asked for."
Chase wanted Liotta for a role in The Sopranos during its original run, Liotta told The Guardian. Liotta shot down rumors he was approached to play Tony Soprano instead of James Gandolfini. Instead, Chase wanted him to play Ralphie, the part Joe Pantoliano wound up playing. "I didn't want to do another mafia thing, and I was shooting Hannibal. It just didn't feel right at the time," Liotta explained.
Chase wound up getting at least one Goodfellas star right off the bat, though, as Lorraine Bracco agreed to play Tony's psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. Bracco played Liotta's on-screen wife Karen Hill in Goodfellas. "I am utterly shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray," Bracco tweeted Thursday. "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."