The year 2015 means, among other things, that Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas is turning 25 years old. The movie was based on the life of mob informant Henry Hill and his relation to the Lucchese crime family. In this trivia list, you’ll learn how closely the movie followed the actual people portrayed.
11. Some of the real criminals portrayed were actually toned down for the film.
According to Henry Hill, despite combining characters and slightly altering plot points and timelines, Goodfellas was about 95 percent accurate. Perhaps some of that remaining five percent has to do with the on-screen portrayals of Paul Vario, the one-time head of the Lucchese crime family, and Jimmy Burke, architect of the Lufthansa heist.
Vario (Paul Cicero in the film) was far from the relatively coolheaded powerbroker Paul Sorvino portrayed. A federal prosecutor called Vario, who served jail time for rape and had a notoriously unhinged temper, "one of the most violent and dangerous career criminals in the city of New York.” And while Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway comes across as cunning and conniving with a brutal streak, the real Jimmy “The Gent” Burke was, according to Hill, a “homicidal maniac,” brutally violent and responsible for at least 50 to 60 murders.
15. During filming, the lines between the movie and the mob world were occasionally blurred.
Louis Eppolito, a police detective who had a bit part as a wiseguy in Goodfellas, was later convicted for carrying out hits for the Lucchese crime family, which is, of course, the family chronicled in the movie. According to screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, there was an open call for real wiseguys, and Scorsese “must have hired like half a dozen guys, maybe more, out of the joint.” And Tony Sirico, who had a bit part as a wiseguy in Goodfellas but is best known for playing Paulie Gualtieri on The Sopranos, had a longer crime resume (28 arrests) than acting resume (27 credits) when the movie was released in 1990.
And there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes tidbits about Goodfellas in the list at mental_floss, including Henry Hill’s life after the movie, who else was considered for the roles, and a few video clips, too.