Goodfellas (stylized GoodFellas) is a 1990 American biographical crime film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese, and produced by Irwin Winkler. It is a film adaptation of the 1985 nonfiction book Wiseguy by Pileggi. Starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino, the film narrates the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980.
As a poor Irish-Italian growing up in 1950s New York City, Henry Hill rises through the ranks of his Brooklyn neighborhood’s crime branch, and with money from the mob he begins living the good life, complete with a beautiful bride, a fancy home, and the best seats at the most exclusive restaurants. A botched robbery lands Henry in prison for a brief period of time, and when he gets released, his reckless infidelities and drug abuse damage his associations with his adopted family.
According to Henry Hill, whose life was the basis for the book and film, Joe Pesci’s portrayal of Tommy DeSimone was 90-99% accurate, with one notable exception; the real Tommy DeSimone was massively built.
Martin Scorsese first got wind of Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” when he was handed the galley proofs. Although Scorsese had sworn off making another gangster movie, he immediately cold-called the writer and told him; “I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.” Pileggi replied; “I’ve been waiting for this phone call my entire life.”
According to Nicholas Pileggi, some mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to scenes. The mobsters gave Warner Bros. fake Social Security numbers, and no one knows how they received their paychecks.
Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene where Jimmy hands out money, because he didn’t like the way fake money felt in his hands. The prop master gave De Niro $5,000 of his own money. At the end of each take, no one was allowed to leave the set until all the money was returned and counted.