On the 26th anniversary of Goodfellas let us reflect on one of the truly great crime films ever made.
It is the tale of Henry Hill, a kid from an Italian-American neighborhood in 1950s East New York, Brooklyn that would grow up to become one of the biggest gangsters in the history of American crime.
The performances of many of the actors make Goodfellas such a seminal work. Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, and Lorraine Bracco all put in career-defining performances in front of Martin Scorsese’s camera.
DeNiro, Pesci, and Bracco would all be nominated for awards for their performances.
How different it could have been.
According to mentalfloss.com, Tom Cruise and Madonna were actively discussed to play the lead roles of Hill and his wife Karen.
These roles would eventually go to Liotta and Bracco, but as mentalfloss says, Cruise and Madonna were part of the conversation:
According to producer Irwin Winkler, Tom Cruise “was discussed,” and according to producer Barbara De Fina, Madonna was “in the mix” to the extent that Scorsese scouted her at a performance of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow on Broadway.
Imagining Cruise and Madonna in Goodfellas is a rather hard thing to do. So much of what makes the film ring true is the authentic performances of much of the cast.
This authenticity is allegedly why Scorsese ended up choosing Bracco over Madonna:
Scorsese liked Lorraine Bracco largely due to how well she related to Karen, having grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Madonna has worn many hats in her career, and even adopted a fake British accent at one point in time, but Bracco’s performance in Goodfellas is one of a true New Yorker, someone that really knows the subject matter at hand.
As for Cruise, we have Scorsese to thank for ultimately choosing Liotta to play Henry Hill. As far as my memory serves me, there aren’t any scenes in the film of Mr. Hill running at high speed so Cruise’s talent would’ve gone wasted regardless.