It’s crazy to think that anybody who starred in “Goodfellas” would ever have wanted to quit.
However, that was almost the case for Paul Sorvino, who’s performance as mob capo Paul “Paulie” Cicero, is perhaps the best-known of his entire career.
At a 25th anniversary celebration of “Goodfellas” at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend, Sorvino explained how he almost quit right before filming started.
“I was quitting after almost four weeks and we were supposed to start three days later and I called my manager and said, ‘get me out of this, I can’t do it,'” Sorvino said.
It might be surprising that Sorvino was having second thoughts about the role. His character of Paulie Cicero, based on real life mobster Paul Vario, has a lot in common with Sorvino. They are both middle-aged Italian-American men from New York, as Sorvino acknowledged. However, there was more to playing Cicero than just that.
“The real difficulty there was the inner life … that weird bifurcation of character,” Sorvino said. “When they’re home, they’re family people. When they’re out, they’re shooting people.”
While the three main characters in “Goodfellas” (Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway, Tommy DeVito) are portrayed as violent sociopaths, Cicero seems the most cautious of them all. After all, he is the only one who stayed away from drugs and won’t do criminal transactions over the phone.
The actors in the film had screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (who wrote the book “Wiseguy” on which the film was based) at their disposal to find out what the mobsters were like in real life. De Niro, who played Jimmy Conway, went so far as to find out how Jimmy the Gent held a ketchup bottle.
Sorvino ended up changing his mind after one look in the mirror.
He made an intimidating face and realised that he could play this guy.
“I was going to fix my tie and I saw this guy. And it scared the hell out of me,” Sorvino said.
Sorvino might actually be “a poet, an opera singer, a sculptor” and an actor, but he sure made one convincing gangster.
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