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Ray Liotta, the blue-eyed actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in Goodfellas and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, has died. He was 67.

Liotta’s publicist, Jen Allen, said he was in the Dominican Republic shooting a new movie and didn’t wake up on Thursday morning. An official at the Dominican Republic’s National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorised to speak to the media confirmed the death of Ray Liotta and said his body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue.

Robert De Niro, in an emailed statement, said “I was very saddened to learn of Ray’s passing. He is way too way young to have left us. May he Rest in Peace.”

Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci publicity portrait for the film 'Goodfellas', 1990.
Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci starred in the 1990 film ‘Goodfellas’, 1990. (Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

Lorraine Bracco, who played Karen Hill in Goodfellas tweeted that she was, “Utterly shattered to hear this terrible news about my Ray. I can be anywhere in the world & people will come up & tell me their favourite movie is Goodfellas. Then they always ask what was the best part of making that movie. My response has always been the same…Ray Liotta.”

Seth Rogen, who Liotta acted with in the 2009 comedy Observe and Report tweeted, “He was such a lovely, talented and hilarious person. Working with him was one of the great joys of my career and we made some of my favorite scenes I ever got to be in. A true legend of immense skill and grace.”

Though he grew up focused on playing sports, including baseball, during his senior year of high school, the drama teacher asked him if he wanted to be in a play, which he agreed to on a lark. Whether he knew it or not at the time, it planted a seed, though he still assumed he’d end up working construction.

And later, at the University of Miami he picked drama and acting because they had no maths requirement attached.

Ray Liotta.
Ray Liotta established himself as one of the best young American actors in the early 1990s. (CNN)

It would take a few years for him to land his first big movie role, in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild as Melanie Griffith’s character’s hotheaded ex-convict husband Ray.

A few years later, he would get the memorable role of the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

His most iconic role, as real life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas came shortly after. He and Scorsese had to fight for it though, with multiple auditions and pleas to the studio to cast the still relative unknown.

Film critic Roger Ebert, in his review, wrote that Goodfellas solidified Liotta (and Bracco) as “two of our best new movie actors.”

This image released by Amazon Prime Video shows Ray Liotta in a scene from the series "Hanna."
This image released by Amazon Prime Video shows Ray Liotta in a scene from the series “Hanna.” Liotta, the actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in Goodfellas and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, has died. He was 67. A representative for Liotta told The Hollywood Reporter and NBC News that he died in his sleep Wednesday night in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming a new movie (Christopher Raphael/Amazon Prime Video via AP)

It didn’t matter the size of the role, or even the genre, Liotta always managed to stand out and steal scenes in both dramas and comedies, whether as Johnny Depp’s father in Blow or Adam Driver’s bullish divorce lawyer in Marriage Story.

Mafiosos seemed to be his specialty. He turned down the part of Ralphie on The Sopranos because of it. But he’d still end up playing a mob type with James Gandolfini in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly.

Liotta has one daughter, Karsen, with ex-wife Michelle Grace and was engaged to be married to Jacy Nittolo at the time of his death.

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