A rumor has long percolated that Ray Liotta turned down the chance to play Tony Soprano on HBO’s Emmy-winning drama “The Sopranos,” but that’s not actually true. During an interview with The Guardian this week, Liotta revealed that he did pass on “The Sopranos” but that Tony Soprano was not the role series creator David Chase wanted to recruit him for.
“No! I don’t know where that story came from,” Liotta said about the rumor he was offered Tony Soprano, famously played by James Gandolfini. “David [Chase, creator of ‘The Sopranos’] once talked to me about playing Ralphie [eventually played by Joe Pantoliano]. But never Tony.”
Why did Liotta pass on joining what would become one of the defining TV dramas in history? “I didn’t want to do another mafia thing, and I was shooting Hannibal. It just didn’t feel right at the time.”
Liotta was already mafia film and television royalty thanks to his lead role as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 classic “GoodFellas.” Unlike his co-stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Liotta never went on to reunite with Scorsese on a follow-up project. When The Guardian asked the reason why, the actor responded: “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. But I’d love to.”
“The Sopranos” would have given Liotta a second iconic mafia project, but he’s satisfied with even having just one thanks to “Goodfellas.” As the actor said, “If you got one movie that people remember, that’s great. If you got two, that’s fantastic.” And Liotta does have other iconic projects under his belt such as the baseball classic “Field of Dreams.”
Liotta may have turned down “The Sopranos” as a series, but he eventually found his way to the franchise with a key supporting role in David Chase’s upcoming prequel movie “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase and director Alan Taylor cast Liotta as the father of Alessandro Nivola’s Dickie Moltisanti.
“The Many Saints of Newark” debuts in theaters and HBO Max on October 1. The film will be available to stream for 31 days. Head over to The Guardian’s website to read more from the actor’s recent interview.