From enjoying Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” to Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti in “The Many Saints of Newark” — the prequel film to “The Sopranos,” which opens Friday in theaters and on HBO Max — Ray Liotta is aware of a factor or two about wiseguys.
But don’t let the thuggishness idiot you: In actual life, he’s extra of a mild fella.
“I don’t go around beating people up,” Liotta, 66, advised The Post. “I’ve never been in a fight. I avoid it at all costs.”
Still, after starring in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 basic “Goodfellas” — thought of one of one of the best mob motion pictures of all time — Liotta is again with “Many Saints,” which traces the roots of Tony Soprano’s rise to energy. Given that “Goodfellas” impressed “The Sopranos,” enjoying Hollywood Dick — the grandfather of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) — is a sort of full-circle second for the Union, NJ, native.
The position fulfills a long-standing want that Liotta needed to work with “Sopranos” creator David Chase, who additionally served as a author and producer on “The Many Saints of Newark.” “David Chase is a special, intense talent,” he mentioned.
In reality, Chase as soon as pursued Liotta to play Ralphie Cifaretto on the mafia drama, however the actor handed on the position that in the end went to Joe Pantoliano. This time, although, it was Liotta who was doing the pursuing.
“I flew myself out, and had lunch with David and Alan [Taylor, the director],” he mentioned, “and by the end of it they asked if I would play Hollywood Dick.”
Although his “Goodfellas” co-stars Imperioli and Lorraine Bracco appeared in “The Sopranos,” Liotta didn’t actually watch the game-changing HBO collection. “I had seen bits and pieces of it when it first came out,” he mentioned. “But at that time in my life … you’re out doing things. And then I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I wanna watch it.’ ”
Nor did Liotta really feel the necessity to return and binge “The Sopranos” to create Hollywood Dick. “[The series] didn’t inform my decisions whatsoever of what to do. It was all in the script,” he mentioned. “Because I didn’t watch the series, I didn’t feel like I really missed a lot of the stuff because I didn’t know what they were talking about. This movie stands alone.”
Although he wasn’t a “Sopranos” fan, Liotta was intrigued by the thought of James Gandolfini’s 22-year-old son, Michael, enjoying a younger Tony Soprano in “Many Saints.” “That’s gotta be a trip,” he mentioned. “What is interesting is it wasn’t like a young version of exactly what James did. It wasn’t this big, hulking Tony Soprano that we know from the series. There was an innocence to [him].”
While Liotta wasn’t capable of give Gandolfini any recommendation — “I barely saw him at all — I never worked on the days that he worked,” he mentioned — he nonetheless hopes to bond with the younger actor about his “totally” promising career and the way he handled the trauma of his father’s 2013 dying.
“I’d love to talk to him just one-on-one,” he mentioned. “He was the one in Italy with his dad [when he suffered a fatal heart attack], and all of a sudden something like that happens when you’re 14 years old, that’s a really innocent age.”
For his half, Liotta — who was adopted from a Newark, NJ, orphanage earlier than transferring to Union — is having fun with a career renaissance at 66. He’ll even be enjoying new villain Gordon Evans within the third season of the Amazon Prime drama “Hanna,” which premieres in November. And he’s additionally wrapped the position of Big Jim within the upcoming Apple TV+ restricted collection “In With the Devil,” starring Taron Egerton.
“Yeah, I’m not complaining. But I worked for it,” he mentioned. “I had to live through a period where things were down instead of up. I’ve definitely had an up-and-down career. But I’m extremely persistent and competitive where I just wanted to get to a certain place again.”
And he likes the truth that he can now bounce between TV and movie in a manner he couldn’t do in his early days. “If you were doing television [before], then maybe your career as somebody in movies was slipping,” mentioned Liotta, who additionally co-starred with Jennifer Lopez in NBC’s Brooklyn cop drama “Shades of Blue” from 2016 to 2018. “It’s much more open, less snobbish.”
Whether on the large or small display, Liotta is blissful to “just keep playing pretend” properly into his senior years: “I still feel extremely young, even if I am in my 60s.”