Would Tom Cruise Have Improved Goodfellas? A Movieline IM Debate

liotta-gf_183.jpgEarlier today, with the news that Tom Cruise was almost cast in Goodfellas, Christopher Rosen asked "Can you imagine Tom Cruise as a coked up Henry Hill?" Well, yeah, I actually can! This was a Tom Cruise that just came off an Oscar nomination for Born on the Fourth of July. But could Goodfellas have been better with Tom Cruise as Henry Hill? Ahead, Christopher and I try to get to the bottom of that very question via the convenience of Gchat.

Mike: Is it wrong that I think I would have liked Cruise better than Ray Liotta? This is Days of Thunder Cruise! Not jumping on the couch, Knight and Day Cruise.

Christopher: No, it still wouldn't work. Think about how slimy Liotta is in Goodfellas.

Mike: I think Liotta was the weak link of that movie. I mean, he's fine, but still the weakest of the main characters.

Christopher: Blasphemy. I love Liotta in Goodfellas.

Mike: Also, think about how slimy Cruise was in Magnolia.

Christopher: He's got the blank affect down cold in Magnolia, but it's a different kind of slimy. Cruise in Magnolia is cocky slimy. Big difference.

Mike: That doesn't mean Cruise can't play the slimy required to play Henry Hill. Think about a hybrid between Charlie Babbitt and T. J. Mackey.

Christopher: But, even then, that hybrid is still the coolest guy in the room. Hill is supposed to be an outsider looking for access. I don't think you'd ever really believe that Cruise could be an outsider. For starters, he was too handsome back then and he was so supremely confident that it doesn't seem like he could turn that off.

Mike: Really? The guy who just played Ron Kovic couldn't play an outsider looking for access? An Academy Award-nominated role, I should add. And Kovic, as portrayed in his later years by Cruise, was far from a handsome guy.

Christopher: Well. Hmm. OK, he could portray an outsider -- but 1990 was during the crest of his super-stardom. Oscar nomination or not, it would be hard to look at Henry Hill and not see "Tom Cruise." Part of the reason Liotta works is because he's a relative blank slate. It's the Jon Hamm-as-Don Draper idea. We have no preconceived expectations of Henry Hill and can develop along with the character.

Mike: Hey, Liotta was still Shoeless Joe in my book. I just think that, at times, we can get caught up in this recent version of Cruise that we've been introduced to over the last few years and forget how great an actor he was back then. This was right after Born on the Fourth of July and right before Days of Thunder. I think he was still one or two years from his peak of super-stardom. After he married Nicole Kidman...

Christopher: I'm not knocking Cruise, per se. I just think if you toss him into Goodfellas, it becomes a different movie. Liotta is an anti-hero, the guy narcs on his friends, worms his way to saving his own skin. He's the ultimate cockroach; a coward. Even then, I just can't imagine Tom Cruise doing that. Total blind, unfounded speculation, but I feel like the studio wouldn't have allowed him to do that either.

Mike: That may be true. He was the ultimate "good guy" and they probably wouldn't want to put him in a gangster movie. But everyone is so quick to dismiss him being in the film. He was (and still might be) a great actor; he could have easily pulled it off. I mean, if there's one thing Cruise can do, he can fake laugh. Think how much better the "Funny how?" scene would have been with Cruise. Liotta's fake laugh is painful.

liotta-gf_183.jpgChristopher: Oh, disagree! At least in my circle of friends, the Liotta fake laugh is epic -- as is his totally unnecessary "OK"-like finger sign he gives over his eye. That's ACTING!

Mike: Yes, I did like his "OK." But, seriously, name someone who fake laughs better than Cruise. I feel the reason Liotta's laughing stands out to you is because it's so... awkward.

Christopher: Cruise is the master of the fake laugh. But we can't just cast on fake laughs alone. Unfortunately.

Mike: Or Oscar nominations, apparently?

Christopher: I'm ignoring that. I will say this, however: Cruise would have been a more believably charming love interest for Lorraine Bracco. Because that is one aspect of Goodfellas that feels like going through the motions, even with her patched-over voice over.

Mike: I agree. What's the appeal there?

Christopher: None. They have anti-chemistry.

Mike: There's also this: When Liotta is on screen with Robert De Niro or Joe Pesci, he's blown off the screen. Cruise was fantastic playing opposite Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. I think Cruise has a better chance of sharing the screen with those two. I will admit this: I already don't buy that Henry and Tommy were childhood friends...

Christopher: Well that's because Pesci is 20 years older than Liotta and apparently ages like a reverse Ben Button.

Mike: Actually, 12 years. But, yeah, Cruise would have made that even more improbable.

Christopher: I disagree there too, though. I think Henry, as a character, is supposed to get blown off the screen. He's a follower, not a leader.

Mike: If that's the case, why not just hire Kirk Cameron or Corin Nemec? I'm sure they could have been blown off the screen, too.

Christopher: But they don't have last names that end in vowels.

Mike: Tony Danza, then.

Christopher: Oh, now that I would love to see!

Mike: They would have had to change the character's name to Tony Hill.


  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    Team Cruise. He'd already played a hot-shot Italian hustler for Scorsese in Color of Money; he'd have hit Hill outta the park.
    It's kind of heartbreaking that of all the great filmmakers Cruise has sought to work with in his career, his repeat collaborators are guys like Tony Scott, Cameron Crowe and Steven Spielberg. What gives?

  • metroville says:

    Parker Lewis can't narc.

  • Desk_hack says:

    Christ on a cracker, what a waste of time. This could have been solved by saying "No" from the get-go, because nothing could improve Goodfellas.

  • Dimo says:

    Ditto. You know what would have been great? Orson Wells as Don Corleone. Pointless.

  • davem says:

    Henry Hill was half Irish, so I doubt it would matter if the actor playing him had a vowel at the end of his last name.

  • Mike the Movie Tyke says:

    Agreed, an inane discussion. Go get a job at a studio, Mike Ryan, so you can propagate the tradition of bad decision making. Liotta the weak link? Days of Thunder Tom Cruise is a good thing? Liotta nailed that part, just the way he said "Karen" was poetry. Tom Cruise is a cartoon.

  • Geri says:

    Tom is a great guy, most women would love for their husbands or boyfriends to stand atop of mount everest and proudly tell the world he loves them, alas (Tom on Oprah's couch) brainwashed people let the media convince then Tom did something wrong, (which he did not). He is not sleazy enough to play a goodfellow, Liotta fit the bill, and the movie was great.

  • sandy says:

    Geri is right. I saw nothing wrong when Tom jumped up and down in love (happened to be on a safe comfy couch). Tom is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. Take another look at Magnolia, Collateral, Fourth of July, Samurai (note to that- was he sexy, or what, great uniform dress scene) . His talent is multi, multi. athletic, comic, drama. You go Tom. Some people have nothing to do but criticize others. Jealousy? Prejudice? What?