Thursday, August 22, 2019

"‘Goodfellas’ And ‘My Blue Heaven’ Each Tell The Story Of The Same Mobster"

Tyler Coates for Decider:

Immortalized in Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 true crime book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, [Henry Hill's] crazy-but-true life of crime was the basis for Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas in which his character was portrayed by Ray Liotta.

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[Goodfellas is] pretty much the opposite of My Blue Heaven. Henry Hill isn’t a character, exactly; in Herbert Ross’s comedy, Steve Martin stars as Vincent Antonelli, a slick and charismatic former mobster who moves to suburban San Diego under a new name.

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Nora Ephron wrote the script based on her own conversations with Hill when he was collaborating with Pileggi on his book. Hill himself describes this in his own memoir, writing:

At night, I’d get half-gassed and call Nick in New York just to bullshit. It was like therapy for me. Sometimes Nick’s wife, Nora, would answer the phone and tell me, “Hey, Nick is sleeping. What’s the matter, Henry? This is Aunt Nora.” Meanwhile, she was picking my brain for a script she was writing. I had no idea. She was on the other end taking notes. She was a piece of work… In 1990, the same year my movie Goodfellas came out, she had a little movie released called My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin, about a New Yorker in Witness Protection out west — just like I had been in Omaha. When I saw it I flipped because she used some of the stuff I had told her on the phone for her movie scenes.

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To watch them back-to-back is a real trip, as you can see the source material so clearly and imagine Pileggi and Ephron’s conversations with Hill (and their own creative imaginations running wild).