His publicist, Jennifer Allen, confirmed to USA TODAY that Liotta died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic while filming the upcoming movie “Dangerous Waters.” His fiancée, Jacy Nittolo, was on location with him.
An official at the Dominican Republic’s National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorized to speak to the media said Liotta’s body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue.
Producers of “Dangerous Waters” mourned Liotta in a statement to USA TODAY: “We were deeply saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. It’s a tremendous loss and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, fiancée Jacy and daughter Karsen.”
Born in Newark, New Jersey, the actor had a breakthrough role in Martin Scorsese’s mob classic “Goodfellas” playing real-life criminal Henry Hill opposite Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and often was featured in crime films, including the recent “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.” In 2021, Liotta told USA TODAY that he turned down a part in the original HBO “Sopranos” show because “it just didn’t feel right,” though series creator David Chase said it was worth the wait to work with him.
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“Ray seems to be a rather quiet man,” Chase told USA TODAY. “But when the cameras roll, that electricity goes on and it’s just mind-blowing.”
That film was part of a recent career resurgence that also found him playing supporting roles in Oscar best-picture nominees “Marriage Story,” “No Sudden Move” and the Apple TV+ series “Black Bird.”
Adopted at 6 months from an orphanage by a township clerk and an auto parts owner, Liotta grew up in New Jersey playing sports, including baseball. During his senior year of high school, a drama teacher asked him whether he wanted to be in a play. He’d go on to study acting at the University of Miami, and after graduation, he got his first break on the soap opera “Another World.”
Liotta scored a Golden Globe nomination for playing Melanie Griffith’s violent ex-con spouse in Jonathan Demme’s 1986 action romance “Something Wild.” In 1989’s “Field of Dreams,” he portrayed “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, a member of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team who shows up as a ghost in the cornfield of an Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner).
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A year later, “Goodfellas” put Liotta on the map, and a string of memorable tough-guy roles followed, including “Cop Land” with De Niro and Sylvester Stallone; “Killing Them Softly” with Brad Pitt; and the TV series “Shades of Blue” with Jennifer Lopez. In 1998, I played Frank Sinatra in HBO’s “The Rat Pack.” Liotta earned an MTV Movie Award nod for best villain as the psychopathic cop in 1992’s “Unlawful Entry,” and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award co-starring as a police lieutenant in 2002’s “Narc.”
Liotta also found chances to send up his Hollywood image. He voiced the leader of a fishy street gang in an episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and in 2015 donned a white suit and gray goatee as Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials.
Contributing: Bryan Alexander and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, and Lindsey Bahr and Martin Adames, The Associated Press
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism