‘Goodfellas’: Martin Scorsese Had to Edit This Violent Scene After Audience Members Walked Out Within Minutes During the Test Screening

Martin Scorsese has had a number of career-defining films throughout his more than 50 years in the industry. “Goodfellas,” which is highly regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time, was widely received by audiences when it premiered, but it turns out Scorsese had to make some edits after the initial test screening left audience members horrified.

Martin Scorsese (center) with Ray Liotta (left) and Paul Sorvino
Martin Scorsese (center) with Ray Liotta (left) and Paul Sorvino | The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ ranks as one of the greatest movies of all time

Scorsese’s 1990 film was one of many successes from the famed director. The movie highlights the life of being involved with the mob in 1950s New York City, as told by main character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta). Though the film made history for plenty of reasons, it broke the record for saying the F-word more times than any other movie ever made at the time (more than 300, according to The Hollywood Reporter). Though the film glamorizes the gangster life at first, it also shows its dark side — the dangers of being involved in such a lifestyle.

Martin Scorsese (left) and Robert De Niro
Martin Scorsese (left) and Robert De Niro | Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic

RELATED: ‘Goodfellas’: The ‘$20,000 Mistake’ an Actor Made During 1 of Martin Scorsese’s Great Shots

The opening stabbing scene left audience members horrified during the test screening

Scorsese initially wanted the film to be called “Wise Guy,” but he eventually renamed it to Goodfellas. The film was based on the book “Wise Guy,” and it wasn’t produced until several years after the screenplay was written.

When it came time to test the film, though, Scorsese was in for a rude awakening. Members of the test audience, who saw the film prior to its release, were horrified by what happened within the film’s opening scene.

The movie begins with Henry, Tommy, and Jimmy driving a car with a deceased Billy Batts in the trunk. But when they realize Billy is still alive, Tommy takes it upon himself to stab Billy several times to ensure he’s dead. But it turns out in the original film, which the test audience was shown, Tommy (Joe Pesci) stabbed Billy (Frank Vincent) seven times — on camera. The audience was so taken aback by the violent killing, and the fact that it was the opening scene, that several audience members reportedly walked out of the showing, according to Complex.

Ultimately, Scorsese agreed to cut the shown stabbings down to three, though the sound effects suggested that the other four times occurred off camera.

(L-R) Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, & Joe Pesci
(L-R) Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, & Joe Pesci | Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Scorsese reportedly once said he would have become a gangster if it weren’t for having asthma

Scorsese’s love for films stemmed from spending most of his life indoors. The famed director was born with chronic asthma, which prevented him from running around the neighborhood growing up. According to Complex, Scorsese stayed inside most of his life because of his breathing problems, which he later credited to being the reason he was able to avoid getting involved in crime from a young age. Instead, he developed an interest in film, which led him to become one of the most notable directors of all time.