Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci
Plot: The story follows real life ganster Henry Hill and his associates Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, as they work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
Both of Scorsese's parents are in the film. His mom, Catherine, plays Joe Pesci's character's mother, while his father, Charles, plays Vinnie, the old mobster whom Paulie warns about putting too many onions in the tomato sauce in the prison dinner scene.
In the scene where Henry and Karen Hill are discussing the witness protection program, the prosecutor they are speaking to is Ed McDonald, the actual federal prosecutor who put Hill in the witness protection program.
Joe Pesci's character Tommy DeVito is based on Lucchese family hit man Thomas DeSimone, aka "Two-Gun Tommy" or "Tommy D." Henry Hill has described Joe Pesci's portrayal to be 95% accurate. The biggest difference was that while Pesci is only about 5-foot-4, DeSimone was actually a hulking 6-foot-2 in real life. DeSimone vanished in 1979 and his body was never found. He was 28.
According to the book "Wiseguy," DeSimone did in fact pistol whip William (Billy Batts) Bentvena to death after Batts ribbed him about being a shoeshine boy, but the insult and the murder occurred a few weeks apart.
The famous "Funny how?" scene was inspired by an experience Joe Pesci had working at a restaurant and mob hangout as a young man. As Liotta and other castmates tell it, Pesci got put on the spot after he quipped that one mobster was "a funny guy."
Chuck Low, who plays the pestering wig salesman Morrie Kessler, was Robert De Niro's real estate consultant before appearing in the film.
De Niro's character, Jimmy Conway, was based on James Burke, a top associate of the Lucchese crime family nicknamed "Jimmy the Gent" because of his dapper appearance. As depicted in the movie, Burke masterminded the 1978 Lufthansa robbery, which ripped off nearly $6 million from a JFK cargo hold and was the largest robbery in the U.S. at the time.
Queens native Christopher Serrone said playing young Henry Hill put a giant target on his back during his teen years. "Every kid in my neighborhood wanted to be the guy who beat up the gangster kid from Goodfellas. It was tough,"
Henry Hill died on June 12, 2012, at the age of 69.
The dinner scene with Tommy’s mother is largely improvised, including Tommy asking if he could borrow her butcher’s knife and the paw/hoof debate.
After the film’s premiere, the real Henry Hill was so proud that he went around revealing his true identity and boasting that the film was about him. The FBI had to remove him from its Witness Protection Programme.
Al Pacino was offered the role of Jimmy Conway but turned it down due to fear of typecasting. Ironically, later that same year he ended up playing a gangster, Big Boy Caprice in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. He admits regretting the decision.
Hill was paid roughly $550,000 for Goodfellas. But according to Hill, that’s chump change compared to wiseguy money he was making back in his gangster days, which ranged from $15,000 to $40,000 a week.
“Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” was the only line scripted for the scene where Tommy kills Spider. The rest was all improvised.
Wiseguy author Nicholas Pileggi has claimed actual mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to certain scenes.
Unlike the character portrayed by Ray Liotta, who witnesses several murders but never kills anyone himself, Hill admitted to Howard Stern that he had murdered three people on orders from Paul Vario, the real-life model for Paulie Cicero.
Scorsese and Pileggi changed the movie's title from "Wiseguy" to "Goodfellas" to avoid confusion with CBS' then-current mob drama series "Wiseguy."
During the sequence where Tommy fatally empties his .45 into Spider (Michael Imperioli), poor Imperioli stumbled backward into the bar so forcefully that he slashed his hand on a glass pitcher and had to be taken to the emergency room to have the wound stitched up.
Catherine Scorsese had no idea while filming that the reason Tommy was asking to borrow her butcher knife was because he had Billy locked in the car trunk. Scorsese later revealed that the scene only had about two lines of dialogue and the rest was improvised by the actors. Martin, the director, told his mother before filming that her character was simply having the boys over for dinner. The part about their kidnapping was left out to capture what a natural dinner conversation at one of their houses would have been like.