Goodfellas is a classic of American cinema, and helped to cement Martin Scorsese as one of the preeminent directors of all time. It also solidified many actors in the pantheon of greats, including Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro. But there are certain aspects of the film that you might not know about. In this video, we will going over a couple of the scenes that had to be changed in order to make it into the final cut, as well as some other interesting tidbits about the movie. So stay tuned, as Facts Verse presents: The Infamous Scene That Cut from Goodfellas!
Spider’s Death Scene
The scene featuring Spider’s death is a pivotal moment that illustrates the ruthless nature of the film’s central characters. Spider, a young and inexperienced gangster played Michael Imperioli, taunted and eventually shot by Tommy, played Joe Pesci. While the scene now considered one of the most memorable and impactful moments of the film. And it almost didn’t make it into the final cut. The studio behind the movie was initially hesitant about including the scene. And as they felt it was too violent and could potentially turn off audiences.
However, Scorsese was adamant that the scene was essential to the story he wanted to tell. He argued that the brutal nature of the gangster lifestyle needed accurately portrayed on screen. And that omitting the scene would water down the overall impact of the film.
Ultimately, Scorsese was able to convince the studio to keep the scene in the movie, and it has since become one of the most iconic moments of his career. The way the scene is shot, with its quick cuts and intense close-ups. And perfectly captures the tension and violence of the moment, and leaves a lasting impression on viewers.
Toning Down a Murder
While Scorsese was able to convince the studio that Spider’s death scene was vital and should remain as is, he wasn’t as persuasive when it comes to the opening sequence. In it, Henry, Tommy, and Jimmy (aka Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro) are driving in a car with what they presume to the dead body of a character called Billy Batts in the trunk. But when they arrive at their destination, they realize Batts is still alive. Tommy takes it on himself to remedy the situation, and stabs Billy several times.
But as gruesome as that moment is, it’s not nearly s gruesome as it was for the original test audiences who saw the film. Apparently the early cut had Tommy stabbing Billy a full seven times. But test audiences not pleased. Some reportedly walked out of the screening.
Which is not great news, considering it was the opening scene of the movie. The studio informed Scorsese that something had done. So he trimmed the scene a bit. Instead of actually showing all seven stabbings, he only showed three. But at the same time, you can still hear the other four off camera. And while that doesn’t’ seem like a huge change, it was enough to keep the studio happy and future test audiences in their seats.
Scorsese’s Mom Almost Cut Out
There another notable scene that nearly got cut out, and it would have potentially meant trouble off set for Martin. His mother, Catherine Scorsese, made a memorable cameo appearance as Tommy DeVito’s mother. The role was small but powerful, and Catherine played up the idea of a typical Italian-American matriarch who is loving. And if not a bit overbearing towards her son. She hosts a dinner party for Tommy and his associates, which leads to a humorous and tension-filled scene. The character of Tommy, played Joe Pesci, is famously hot-headed and prone to violent outbursts. And his mother’s overprotective behavior towards him adds to the comic relief of the scene.
But apparently the studio felt that it wasn’t a scene that was essential for the movie. And they felt it slowed down the pacing too. So they suggested it cut. But in this case, the scene actually saved by test audiences! A near unanimous hit as a scene for test audiences. And to the studio reversed their position and kept it in the movie. Which probably meant fewer awkward family dinners for Martin.
Scorsese Had The Music In His Head
Goodfellas is known for its iconic soundtrack, featuring classic tracks from the 1950s and 1960s. What many people may not know is that Scorsese actually had the soundtrack in his head before filming even began. Scorsese had always been a fan of the music from that era, and while writing the script for Goodfellas, he would listen to his personal collection of records to help him get into the right mindset. He even went as far as to incorporate the music into the script itself. And writing in specific songs for certain scenes.
When it came time to film, Scorsese already had a clear idea of what songs he wanted to use and where they would fit in the story. He worked closely with music supervisor Robbie Robertson to license the tracks and ensure they used in the most effective way possible. The result was a soundtrack that perfectly captured the mood and atmosphere of the film. And has since become an iconic part of movie history. From The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” during the film’s opening scene to The Rolling Stones’. And “Gimme Shelter” during the intense climax, the music in Goodfellas is as much a character as any of the actors on screen.
Scorsese’s use of music in his films has become a signature style. And Goodfellas often cited as one of the best examples of this. The fact that he already had the soundtrack in his head before filming began is a testament to his creativity and vision as a filmmaker. And is just one of the many reasons why Goodfellas continues to be celebrated as a masterpiece of cinema.
The “How Am I Funny” Scene
One of the most famous scenes from Goodfellas is one in a restaurant where Henry Hill and his friends are celebrating. Tommy asks Henry to tell him if he’s funny. And when Henry hesitates, Tommy becomes increasingly aggressive and demands that Henry say that he’s funny. The tension builds until Tommy finally reveals that it was all a joke, but the scene remains tense and uncomfortable. It’s a powerful moment that showcases Pesci’s ability to switch between humor and violence in an instant. But it’s made all the more striking by the knowledge that it was inspired by a real-life event. Reportedly, in his early acting days, Pesci worked at a restaurant that was often frequented by mobsters.
Before filming Goodfellas, Pesci recounted a time to Scorsese when he’d been waiting on a mobster, who said something mildly funny. Pesci, trying to appease the man, told him he was funny. The mobster apparently didn’t have very warm response, to say the least. The anecdote stuck with Pesci for years, and when he told Scorsese about it, Martin thought it was hilarious. So they wrote it into the script. And on the day, only Ray Liotta and Pesci knew it was going to happen. Scorsese wanted the awkwardness and fear of the other people in the scene to be real, since they didn’t know what was actually happening.
The Famous Tracking Shot
Perhaps the MOST famous moment in Goodfellas is quite a long one. It’s the tracking shot that follows Henry Hill and his wife Karen as they enter the Copacabana nightclub through the back entrance and make their way to their front-row seats. It considered one of the most iconic shots in cinema history. According to various reports, the shot required an immense amount of planning and rehearsal, with Scorsese and his crew spending several weeks mapping out the camera movements and blocking the actors’ movements.
The actual shot filmed on a Steadicam, with the camera operator, Larry McConkey, carefully following the actors through the nightclub’s kitchen, hallways, and main room.
The shot reportedly took around eight takes to get right, with each take requiring the actors to hit their marks perfectly and the crew to coordinate the camera movements with the actors’ movements. And according to Liotta, they finally nailed one take, only to have it ruined by actor and comedian Henny Youngman. The characters there to see Youngman perform, and at the end of the tracking shot, Youngman supposed to deliver one of his punchlines. But he went up on the line, and the take ruined. Fortunately, they were eventually able to get it all in one good take, and the rest is history!
Record Setting Curses
Goodfellas is, of course, known for its realistic portrayal of organized crime and the harsh language that comes with it. The film features a significant amount of profanity, particularly the use of the f-word. In fact, the word used 300 times in the film’s 146-minute runtime, averaging more than two uses per minute. The excessive use of profanity was controversial at the time of its release and received criticism from some audiences and critics. However, Martin Scorsese defended the language in the film, arguing that it was essential to accurately depict the lifestyle and culture of the characters.
It’s worth noting that the use of profanity in films has become more common in modern cinema, and Goodfellas often cited as a groundbreaking example of a film that pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable at the time. And Scorsese went on to break his own record in The Wolf Of Wall Street, in which the f-word said 506 times.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Are you a fan of Goodfellas? Where does it rank for you in the list of the all time best movies? Who is your favorite character? Let us know in the comments section below!