Most Quoted Goodfellas Scene Is Based On A Real Life Story
Godfellas by Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest gangster movies of all times, no doubts about that.
Even though Godfellas was released three decades ago, the movie's cast and their performance still thrills audiences across continents. Some of the film's scenes have become iconic and are being quoted on the daily basis! Do you think it's funny? How is it funny?
Yes, the "how is it funny" scene is one of those most quoted Godfellas scenes, and the fact is, it is based on a real life story and was partially improvised by Joe Pesci, who played Tommy DeVitom and Ray Liotta, who portrayed Henry Hill.
In the scene the mobsters are sitting in Bamboo Lounge trading stories of the past. Once Tommy DeVito finishes his story Liotta's Hill says that Tommy is a real funny guy and this is when Tommy starts asking in what way he is funny or what he says is funny.
The exchange quickly evolves into a confrontation as Tommy keeps asking in which way he was funny (as a clown or what?) and Henry gets worried. But it all ends peacefully after it turns out Tommy kept asking on purpose to get Hill uneasy. The way Hill's face changes its expression proves that he was frightened and puzzled. The gangsters burst out laughing.
During the 25th anniversary celebration of Goodfellas at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015 Ray Liotta, who passed away this spring aged 67, opened up on this particular scene, saying that this story was based on what Pesci experienced himself once in Queens when he was young and worked in a restaurant. He apparently told a mobster that he was funny and the gangster reacted in the way Pesci's DeVito reacted to Hill's remark.
"The guy said something who happened to be a connected guy and he said 'Well... you think I'm funny?'" Liotta recalled.
It was Martin Scorsese who learned about the story and he insisted on having the exchange in his film's improvised scene. But he wanted only Liotta and Pesci to know about it while the rest of the cast had no clue – this was a great tool to capture their genuine emotions during the mobsters' conversation. But it was done only during the rehearsal – while on set he made several takes and the scene was scripted.
"Just watch his body language, and you know it's dead serious, it could turn in a split second," Scorsese said in a documentary about Godfellas, which won an Oscar for Joe Pesci.