With The Iceman released on Friday, Giannis Lahanis takes a look at the mystery of Hollywood’s wisest guy.
Cinema is no stranger to the theme of creating stars overnight and then letting them burn a slow and painful death. Like many colleagues of his, Ray Liotta saw his stocks go through the roof with Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas in 1990 and then spent years and years watching the same stocks crash and burn. The only constant in Ray Liotta’s career has been Ray Liotta himself.
Henry Hill of Goodfellas was for Ray Liotta his big break. Scorsese had crafted a wonderful mob movie with an exceptional cast. Not put in the shade in terms of screen presence next to the likes of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta gave a solid performance that, along with his good looks, gave him a front row seat in Hollywood.
Using the mix of a bit of wackiness, a bit of blind ambition, a bit of arrogance, a pair of piercing blue eyes and, depending on the role, courage or cowardice, Liotta unfortunately found himself being bound hands and feet to certain roles. Either a loser criminal, a dirty cop, a brave but betrayed agent or, of course, a mobster, Liotta’s career seemed to be circling the drain at one stage, with minor exceptions (Copland, Blow, Narc, Identity).
20-plus years later, Liotta is still alive and kicking. Even now, his roles are cast in the same mould as before, only the movies are actually better. He has a bunch of movies either in production or pre-production and he is still, weirdly enough, a fan favourite. Only this week, Liotta has another film out in The Iceman, in which he plays (unsurprisingly) a mobster.
Unlike others before him who were similarly cursed with a one-off success, Ray’s filmography keeps expanding. The reason is quite clear: the guy just loves what he does. How could anybody ever guest star in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants unless they were seriously committed to their job?
Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Maybe Ray is so good at what he does simply because he’s as crazy as any other character he’s ever played. Nice guy, sure, charming and passionate about his work. But crazy nonetheless. And creepy – just take a look at his recent appearance on the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (you can watch it here). He is a scary guy indeed.
Maybe Ray has us all fooled. Maybe he knows what he’s doing. Maybe all this quirkiness and that dead cold laughter of his is just an act to keep the Ray Liotta persona alive. Ray Liotta could be as happy with his career as any Ryan Gosling, Will Smith, or Daniel Day Lewis out there. These demented and broken men he keeps on playing may very well offer him the highest level of comfort possible. Funny guy he is not. A wise guy on the other hand, that possibly is very true.
Featured image: Bleiberg Entertainment
Picture: Warner Bros.