Ray Liotta Says Tim Burton Wanted To Meet With Him For ‘Batman’

Ray Liotta Says Tim Burton Wanted To Meet With Him For 'Batman'

And More From The Actor About His Career Following His Savannah Film Festival Tribute

There aren’t a lot of actors more immediately intimidating than Ray Liotta. Having successfully played a series of complicated, conflicted protagonists, if not outright villains, Liotta is one of Hollywood’s most reliable tough guys, and even in person, he suffers fools (or anyone else for that matter) reluctantly. The Playlist sat down with him at the Savannah Film Festival, where programmers honored him with a career tribute. Meanwhile, he was just happy to generate attention for his latest film “Son Of No One.”

“I’m not sure what happens,” he said Monday in reference to the Festival’s tribute to his work. “It really brings attention to the movie, and that’s what you want to do. I mean, there’s so many movies in the marketplace, so they’re nice to give me an award. But it kind of makes me uncomfortable – it’s not something I’m comfortable with, but as long as it helps the movie.”

Liotta’s been working for a long time in Hollywood, and seems to have come to terms with the difference between an opportunity that inspires him and one that pays the bills. Describing “Son Of No One,” he said the other cast members drew him to the project. “I didn’t connect with anything personally,” he explained. “I just thought it was really well-written, and I met the director and I really liked him. I liked the previous work that he had done. I knew Channing [Tatum] was cast in it, [Al] Pacino wasn’t in it yet, but I think it was either going to be Pacino or [Robert] De Niro was flirting around with it for a while, so I knew it was attracting good people, and it just worked out.”

Talking about what criteria helps him decide what roles to take, he revealed, “it’s just different things – how busy I’ve been, what my financial status is at that time, the script coming in, the people that are involved in it. There’s not one reason, there always seems to be several things that come into play.” He admitted that it’s not always easy to jump onto a project to which he doesn’t have an immediate connection. “I mean, you still do it, because it’s your job and you don’t want to look foolish up there,” he said. “But there are some movies that are more appealing than others.”

With “Cop Land” coming on on Blu-ray this week, Liotta offered his recollections of the experience of filming James Mangold’s second effort as director. “I just remember that I liked the idea that Harvey Keitel was in it and I had scenes with him,” he said simply. “Because he was an actor that I’d always admired. I didn’t have anything with Bob [De Niro], but Sly [Stallone] I thought was great – talk about thinking outside the box! I think he really wanted to get that movie; I think he lobbied for it hard. It was good. And my relationship with Jim [Mangold], I’ve done another movie with him – I did ‘Identity’ – but I really liked him. He’s a smart guy.”

Mangold’s next project is “The Wolverine,” the follow-up to Gavin Hood’s 2009 film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Liotta seemed surprised that Mangold was taking on a tentpole film, but suggested he would do a great job making the material his own. “He’s a smart guy,” Liotta observed. “And he’s one of the few directors that I’ve seen that goes from genre to genre. He’s really done different kinds of movies.”

When asked whether or not he’d ever auditioned for a superhero movie, Liotta revealed that he once had a unique opportunity to get in on the ground level of a promising – and ultimately hugely successful – superhero franchise. “I remember right after a movie I did, ‘Something Wild,’ Tim Burton wanted to meet me for Batman. And at that time, I said, ‘What are you kidding me? I’m an actor.’ But now it’s changed; now it’s good because if you do that you get other movies.”

Having also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and a variety of other cop-and criminal dramas, Liotta understands that he’s often seen as a tough guy. But he said that he never felt typecast, thanks to the other roles he’s played, even if they were seen less by mainstream audiences. “I’ve done different movies, it’s just whether they’ve seen them or not,” he said. “Just last week I had a really beautiful kids’ story come out, ‘Snowmen,’ but it didn’t get big distribution, so I don’t know how many people will get to see it. But at least they’ll get to see it on video.”

Even if people think he can just play one sort of role, however, he said he’s unconcerned about it, because there’s always someone willing to give him a chance to do something different. “It doesn’t even matter,” he said simply. “There’s just some things that the people who are putting up the money are more comfortable having you do, since you’ve proven yourself. So you’re hoping someone’s thinking outside the box and has the power and the say-so to give you something different.” Liotta also said that he is eager to work with younger actors, as much to buoy his own career as to keep working in general. “It definitely helps that,” he explained. Referring to his “Son Of No One” co-star, he continued, “I mean, it’s the same thing with Channing Tatum, even more – he’s a lot more popular and people have been going and seeing his movies. But yeah, it definitely helps – it’s just smart. And then a lot of the stories are they make movies for younger people, so there are few that are out there for the older generation, but if you want to keep going, you have to kind of mix both. So if you’re with someone who’s younger or who’s got a following, so much the better.”

In terms of his own approach to roles, Liotta perhaps understandably indicated that he doesn’t worry about relating to the characters he plays, because that might eliminate many of the opportunities he’s been able to enjoy. “If you did only things that you relate to, then you would be very limited to what you could do,” he said. “There’s only so much life experience that one has. 90 percent of the people I play, I can’t relate to at all, especially the kind of characters that I’ve been playing. But it’s fun to take on the challenge; I’ve never been in a fight in my life, but I’ve played people who have, so it’s just fun to make believe that you are that person.”

Suffice it to say that Liotta might not be the first person audiences or filmmakers might think of for a romantic lead or period piece. But when asked whether he’s comfortable knowing his limitations, he said, “You want to pay as many characters as you can, but then yeah, there’s just some you know you’re not going to get and nor does it matter.” He also attributed some of his lack of opportunities to the myopic views of casting directors and filmmakers. “The nature of the business is that they’d rather use somebody who’s already been doing that rather than just to prove that you can play it. Because there’s some things that I think I can play, but I might not get the opportunity, but if there’s something that I’m passionate about then I’ll try to set up a meeting and do everything I can to get it.”

In spite of his completely clear-eyed view of his work, he admitted he’s still as passionate about acting as he’s always been. “Yeah, no question,” he responded. “Just because it’s always a challenge if you look at it, you don’t take it for granted or rely on anything you’ve done in the past, which I don’t. I just take each part separately for what it is; each story is obviously different. So yeah, I still really like it.”

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