‘Sopranos’ Star Vincent Pastore Was Surprised When Ray Liotta Slapped Him on the ‘Goodfellas’ Set

With September 2020 marking the 30th anniversary of the Goodfellas (1990) release, the film seems to be everywhere you turn. If people aren’t talking about Joe Pesci’s performance or the Steadicam shots director Martin Scorsese pulled off, they’re revisiting the aborted casting of Tom Cruise.

Goodfellas deserves every bit of the attention. A good example is the Steadicam shot that features Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) introducing his crew at the Bamboo Lounge. As the camera scans the rogue’s gallery, you find real-life gangsters mixed in with trained actors.

At the end of that famous shot, you see Hill (Liotta) have an exchange with Sonny Bunz (Tony Darrow). Bunz asks Hill why he brought him a rack full of fur coats in the middle of the summer. The man organizing that rack of coats was Vincent Pastore.

Sopranos fans know Pastore as the man who played Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero. But on Goodfellas Pastore didn’t have a line. However, he recalled the shoot well because Liotta slapped him in an unused take.

Vincent Pastore said Ray Liotta slapped him in a ‘Goodfellas’ outtake

Ray Liotta with Martin Scorsese and Paul Sorvino
Ray Liotta, Martin Scorsese and Paul Sorvino | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

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When doing his involved, “check-this-out” crew introduction shot, Scorsese had to cue the actors as the camera swooped past them. At the end, the audience sees Hill, the man behind the narration. He’s wheeling the coat rack into the kitchen with Pastore’s character.

Since the shot required a number of takes, it gave Liotta room to experiment. On his visit to the Talking Sopranos podcast, Pastore explained how Liotta took one of the experiments too far. “Marty did 15 takes on that shot,” Pastore said. “Ray Liotta, he had to do a different take each [time].”

Apparently, in one run-through, Liotta decided his Hill character would get aggressive with Pastore’s character. “One time, he smacked me,” Pastore recalled. And Pastore said Liotta hit him in the face. “‘What did you bring me these coats for?’ [he said]. And he hit me.”

That surprised both Pastore and Scorsese. “‘What did you hit Vinny for?'” Pastore recalled the director asking Liotta. Pastore repeated the question to Liotta. “[Liotta] says, ‘I felt like it.'”

Liotta and Pastore later co-starred on Guy Ritchie’s ‘Revolver’

Ray Liotta and Vincent Pastore in 2005
Ray Liotta and Vincent Pastore at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival | J. Sciulli/WireImage

Did Pastore harbor any ill will about Liotta’s slap? He didn’t say so on Talking Sopranos. About 15 years later, the two actors worked together on another film: Guy Ritchie’s Revolver (2005). On that shoot, Pastore played a lead role alongside Liotta and Jason Statham.

In all likelihood, an actor just starting out (as Pastore was on Goodfellas) would simply take the hit and got about his business. Otherwise, he would have had a hard time racking up 175 screen credits he’s added to his name in the three decades since the Goodfellas shoot.

For Sopranos fans who want to see a vintage Pastore performance, check out the Jon Favreau picture Made (2001). In that movie, Pastore plays a New York mob contact of low-level bagmen Favreau and Vince Vaughn. It’s like seeing what would happen if Big Pussy started laying low on the New York side of the river instead of getting whacked.