Goodfellas: Scorsese’s 1990 Oscar Nominee Celebrated at 25th Anniversary

The 2015 Tribeca Film Fest closed Saturday night, April 25, 2015, with the 25th anniversary gala screening of Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated “Goodfellas,” held at the Upper West Side’s Beacon Theater.

The screening was followed by a panel with stars Paul Sorvino, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, “Wiseguy” journalist and writer Nicholas Pileggi, and Robert De Niro, moderated by “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart.

De Niro and Tribeca’s co-founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the film, with the movie icon offering that this year’s 14th iteration of the festival marked “13 more than we intended, and tomorrow we start work on the 15th.”

He then went on to read a email from Joe Pesci (the star of “Goodfellas”) that was nothing more than a string of f-words, which De Niro duly translated: “Dear Bob /Sorry I can’t be there /Love to all /Best, Joe.”

Scorsese and producer Irwin Winkler appeared in a brief video taken from the set of Scorsese’s upcoming period epic “Silence,” filming presently in Taipei.

Scorsese mentioned the controversy following its release. Citing his co-writer Pileggi, he described a nice Italian restaurant in Tribeca where the two would eat — only to be barred after the movie came out, because “we apparently denigrated a certain ethnic group in the picture.”

Scorsese then described the midnight snacking scene, wherein Henry (Liotta), Tommy (Pesci) and Jimmy (De Niro) take a break from burying a body in the backyard of Tommy’s mother (Scorsese’s own mother, Catherine) to sit and eat at the dining room table. “There was only one or two written lines, about showing her paintings. The rest was pretty much what it was like to be around my mother, Joe, Bob, Ray… Her son was just coming home to say hello to her with his friends. He didn’t tell her about…. the body.”

The film,  projected in a new digital remaster, was punctuated with shrieks of delight and rolling ovations from the audience, especially during the vaunted Steadicam shot as Henry and Karen enter the Copacabana floor through the restaurant kitchen, Pesci’s legendary “Funny how?” monologue, even at the cue of an in-prison closeup on a pair of hands slicing garlic knobs with a razor blade.

Some cast members had clearly not been together in years. When asked how he became Paulie Cicero, Sorvino said, “A lot of actors talk about choices, but the fact of the matter is when you find the spine of the character, it’s kind of like an inhabitation, from which you might need an exorcism. And it makes all the decisions for you.” Toggling between an almost academic timbre and the slurred, husky Italian brogue he has in the film, Sorvino then clarified that he nearly left the production until he found Paulie’s inner life — which he found when he caught a glimpse of himself fixing his tie and said, “Oh, that’s the guy!”

Pileggi said: “If that wiseguy has a very powerful character and is going in a different direction than the actor, that’s best. You don’t wanna confuse the situation.”

Liotta said that he didn’t meet Henry Hill until after the picture had been shot, as Scorsese didn’t want him to get confused about his performance — but that he then ran into Hill in varying states of dereliction in later life. “After the movie, I got a call to meet him at a bowling alley in the Valley, in California, with his brother. So I went, and…. There’s Henry, I knew him from pictures, and uh, the first thing he said was: ‘Thanks for not making me look like a scumbag.’ I’m like, ‘Did you see the movie?!’”

De Niro said that, by the time “Goodfellas” was in production, he was too old to play Hill but asked Scorsese to cast him as Jimmy “The Gent” Conway.