SHADES OF RAY

Like Tom Sizemore, Gary Oldman, and Dennis Hopper, Liotta has used this dark magnetism to play a smorgasbord of seedy, unsympathetic souls – the airborne, jet-stalking psycho from “Turbulence;” his crooked Man in Blue from “Unlawful Entry;” Melanie Griffith’s unstable boyfriend in Something Wild. When asked how he’d define such lowlifes, he’s quick to coin a term.

“Combustible?” Liotta offers with a barely audible sigh. Clearly, he’s been through this line of questioning before, and quickly makes reference to the lighter side of his acting resume.

“I would like to think that I was good in “Dominick and Eugene,” “Corinna Corinna,” “Muppets from Space,” and “Operation Dumbo Drop.” For some reason, people are quick to cast me in villain roles. I also think that the bad guys stand out in peoples’ minds.”

Asked if he stayed up nights rifling through vintage police films for acting inspiration prior to “NARC”’s filming, Liotta shakes his head.

“No, I didn’t use anything to shape the role. I don’t like to do that, because I don’t wanna subconsciously borrow from someone else. I wanna create my own stuff. I was certainly influenced by those kinds of movies. That’s why I wanted to do this. But the script was Joe’s take, and it’s my job to fulfill his vision. I didn’t rely on any past characters, though.”

Alongside his onscreen work, Liotta is also associated with “NARC” as a producer. Having recently started his own production company, Tiara Blue Films, Liotta has three other films in pre-production, and an HBO television series on the way.

“I just wanted to do more things on my own,” he explains of Tiara Blue Films, also helmed by his wife, Michelle Grace, and Diane Nabatoff. “I wanted to be more pro-active. As an actor, you often wait until someone gives you a script, and hope that they hire you.

“There was a period awhile back where I wasn’t too crazy about the scripts I was getting, and ‘NARC’ was the first one to come across our desk, after the company was formed, that we really liked.”

Meanwhile, video game aficionados can hear Liotta’s voice work while playing PlayStation 2’s “Vice City.”

“It was something I’d never done before,” he explains of the game. “I like to spread my wings and try new things. It was fun.”

One thing Liotta doesn’t associate with fun is providing commentary on special edition DVD’s.

“I don’t like that stuff,” he confesses bluntly. “I’ll do it every now and then for certain movies. I guess it’s good for students and people who wanna know, but you lose some sort of magic, by revealing all of the secrets.”

“Could we get out of here?” Liotta suddenly requests, fanning the air with a hand. “It’s getting too smoky.”

Indeed, the Four Seasons lounge is quickly resembling one of the hazy, cigarette-filled gangster bars from “Goodfellas,” the Scorsese epic in which Liotta starred as Mafia kingpin Henry Hill. Finding a less cough-inducing table space in the hotel’s airy, vast lobby, Liotta explains his grass roots approach to promoting “NARC.”

“’NARC’ is a special kind of movie, one that requires two people to tell two more people. I’m hoping that if we show it to enough people who like it, word will spread. It’s not your typical Hollywood story, and it’s told in a very realistic way.”

Realistic, indeed. “NARC” pulls no punches as it guides viewers into the den of a disease-plagued junkie picking at his privates and begging for a hit of freebase. Later on, we follow the film’s brave protagonists as they stumble upon a bloated body floating in a bathtub, green with age.

Will audiences be ready for such uncompromising images? Liotta is optimistic.

“It’s gonna be some people’s cup of tea, but won’t be for everyone. I heard a story once about ‘Goodfellas’ being screened, where a few people walked out. Marty (Scorsese) was there, and was asked about how he felt. He said, ‘Good. That means that they were effected. They were moved.’

“This movie is similar. It’s definitely raw and goes to the edge. If you prefer Sweet Home Alabama or My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you may not get there. However, ‘NARC’ is ultimately a thriller, and I think an audience will always be around for that kind of film.”

Noticing a publicist approaching the table, Liotta checks his watch and stands up. “Time to go?” he asks her, preparing to answer yet another series of questions with yet another Seattle-area journalist.

“Sorry,” he explains apologetically. “I’ve gotta do another interview, then get on a plane.”

The rushed actor gives a quick, firm handshake. Then, like the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson vanishing into Field of Dreams’ Iowa cornfield, Ray Liotta vanishes from sight.




Posted on November 27, 2002 in Interviews by

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