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Late Ray Liotta portrayed addiction flawlessly, but didn't do drugs himself

Bruno Cooke May 27, 2022
ray liotta addiction


Goodfellas and Field Of Dreams star Ray Liotta has died at the age of 67, prompting waves of tributes and words of consolation to those who knew him personally. He famously portrayed real-life mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill – who Liotta confirmed had addiction problems during a 2013 Guardian interview – and did so with aplomb, but did Ray suffer from any addiction problems of his own?

Late actor Ray Liotta portrayed Henry Hill’s drug addiction flawlessly

Ray Liotta’s most famous role was as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic Goodfellas.

Henry Hill, or Henry Hill Jr, was a real life American mobster associated with the Lucchese crime family of New York City from the mid 1950s to 1980. He also had an addiction to the drug, namely cocaine, he helped to distribute. 

The Guardian wrote in its obituary of Hill that he fell “deeply into drug use” and grew “increasingly paranoid” – Ray Liotta’s note-perfect portrayal of this drug addiction persists as his most memorable on-screen role.

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Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

In Goodfellas, Liotta’s Henry becomes suspicious, crotchety, frenetic, unkempt, sweaty and, above all, believable. He was 34 when production started and had earned his first on-screen credit a decade earlier.

As Robert De Niro’s character Jimmy Conway tells him not long before the helicopters close in: “Stop with those f***ing drugs. They’re turning your mind into mush. You hear me?”

Ray Liotta spoke tenderly of Henry Hill who ‘definitely had addiction problems’

In 2013, The Guardian interviewed Ray Liotta, partly to promote his new film The Iceman. He also set the record straight on a joke about Brad Pitt that had misfired.

Ray talked about meeting Henry Hill in real life – after shooting Goodfellas.

“He was really a troubled guy,” he said of Hill. “He definitely had addiction problems. One time we did a photo shoot, a magazine was doing actors and their real-life counterparts, and they asked me to do something with Henry.”

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Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“And the poor guy at 3pm was just looped,” Liotta continued. “Every time I saw him he was drunk. But he was a really nice guy, even when he was drunk he wasn’t mean.”

The last time he saw him before Henry died in 2012 was in Venice. “I heard somebody call my name and, under a tree, drunk as a skunk, laying on the grass was Henry.”

Besides a DUI booking in 2007, there’s no evidence Ray had any such issues

In February 2007, CBS News reported Liotta had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). He crashed his car into two parked vehicles in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. 

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Andor | Teaser Trailer | Disney+

Andor | Teaser Trailer | Disney+

He was alone, and injured no one.

Yahoo reported in 2016 he had appeared as a guest on Good Morning Britain looking “preoccupied and slightly unprepared”. He apparently stumbled over his words and left some viewers “slightly concerned”. 

But, as The Focus reported yesterday, Ray’s adoption after he lived in an orphanage as a young child appeared to have “set him on the right path”.

He told The Guardian in 2007: “I was really grateful”. 

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or