Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese pays tribute to late actor Paul Sorvino, who played Paulie Cicero in the film. Sorvino passed away on July 25th of natural causes, just months after another Goodfellas star passed away, Ray Liotta, who played the lead in the film, Henry Hill. Sorvino and Liotta shared many scenes together in the film, with Sorvino acting in a mentor capacity to Liotta's character throughout.
Sorvino's character was based on Paul Vario, a mobster in the Lucchese crime family, a role the actor was hesitant to take originally for fear of not being able to portray the character's aggressive nature convincingly. Fortunately, Sorvino accepted the role and ended up turning out a career-making performance. Sorvino would go on to star in a host of projects, including parts in Oliver Stone's Nixon, Disney's The Rocketeer, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy, and most recently in Epix's Godfather of Harlem with Forest Whitaker.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
Related: Goodfellas: Why Paul Sorvino Almost Quit Playing Paulie Cicero
In a touching tribute (via The Wrap), Scorsese commented on his working relationship with Sorvino, noting that the actor was "tireless" in his pursuit of seeking "a deeper emotional truth" to the character of Paulie. "I learned a lot from him," said Scorsese, who recalls working with the actor on set when a scene wasn't quite coming together. After a few takes, Sorvino asked Scorsese to come away from the monitors and watch him specifically, which turned out to be a great lesson for the famed director. Read Scorsese's full quote below:
I loved working with Paul on that picture. It wasn’t always easy, but that’s never the point to begin with. Paul was tireless — he never settled for less than a deeper emotional truth. I learned a lot from him. I remember one day, I was doing a few takes with him on a scene and it wasn’t quite there. On about the third or fourth take, he said to me, ‘Come away from the monitor and watch me.’ That’s what I did, and I could see it right away. It was a great lesson.
Scorsese went on to say that he was "really saddened to hear the news of his passing, in part because it was so close to losing Ray Liotta. But it was also the loss of a great, generous soul, and an irreplaceable artist.” Sorvino was not only an actor, but also a bronze sculptor, as well as a classically-trained opera singer. An outpouring of tributes has followed his passing, including ones from his daughter, actress Mira Sorvino, who said Sorvino was "the most wonderful father." Goodfellas was the only collaboration between Scorsese and Sorvino. Scorsese's latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, is expected sometime in 2023 on Apple TV+.
Sorvino's passing is a sad loss for family, friends, fans, and collaborators like Scorsese. A strong presence in any project he appeared in, Sorvino will likely always be best remembered for his work in Goodfellas, which is frequently rated as one of the greatest gangster films ever made, let alone one of the best films in general. As tributes continue to pour in and the late actor's work is revisited, many of his previous efforts will likely be unearthed and discovered with fresh eyes, lending a new appreciation to his contributions to the acting craft.