GoodFellas is a classic gangster film by Martin Scorsese, and arguably the best film of his career. Roger Ebert observed, “There was an element of furtive nostalgia, for bad times that shouldn’t be missed, but were.” It clinched the careers of numerous famous actors, including Lorraine Bracco.
The first-person narration of the film lends an intimate and almost voyeuristic feeling to the movie. Just like the characters, the audience feels trapped by the mob at every corner. Nonetheless, they still form relationships, fall in love, and find small moments of beauty. Even gangsters sometimes stop to smell the roses.
Some really interesting decisions and events were behind the making of GoodFellas.
- Scorsese himself was going through a depressing time when GoodFellas premiered, as he was still dealing with critical fallout from his film The Last Temptation of Christ.
- It’s based on a non-fiction book called Wiseguy. The writer, Nicholas Pileggi, showed it to his pals after the film was released, and he said “Mob guys love it, because it’s the real thing, and they knew the people in it. They say, “It’s like a home movie.”
- Madonna was at one point considered for the role of Karen, Henry’s wife. Instead, the role went to Lorraine Bracco to compliment Ray Liotta.
- The costume design has significance, especially the “fang-like collars”.
- There was not technically a music supervisor on GoodFellas. Instead, Scorsese chose all the music himself. It’s one of the most expensive soundtracks ever, since he was desperate to include 30 seconds of a (pricey) Rolling Stones song.
- Robert De Niro was able to call up Henry Hill while doing character research for the film, but Hill was in witness protection so had to go through the police to do so.
- On the other hand, Scorsese never spoke to Henry Hill once during the making of the film. He says that he called him once after it was finished, and Hill thanked him for something.
- They opened up a casting call to real mob members for several scenes in the film, but they wouldn’t give their real social security numbers to collect payment.
- Henry and Karen’s first date was, at that time, the longest Steadicam shot in history. It was designed to showcase Henry’s comfort and control.
- Scorsese made very purposeful use of the freezeframe, which he says originates in documentary film. He used it to highlight important moments in Henry’s life.
For a more detailed journey into the background of the film, watch Getting Made: The Making of GoodFellas.