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Real GoodFellas

Real GoodFellas

So, what is the real Goodfellas story? This movie is based on the non-fiction book ‘Wiseguy’ by Nicholas Pileggi, who began his career as a journalist and had a profound interest in the Mafia. The real story of Goodfellas movie is almost 100% true and real people are existed in real life and most of the events have happened in real life.

Here is a list of the main movie actors and real people.

Actor Role Based on
Ray Liotta Henry Hill Henry Hill
Robert De Niro Jimmy Conway Jimmy Burke
Joe Pesci Tommy DeVito Thomas DeSimone

The full list is quite long with about 28 roles for actual people and 2 people were playing themselves in this movie (Detective Ed Deacy, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed McDonald). Amazing, isn’t it?

Real Good Fellow – Henry Hill (actor Ray Liotta)

June 11, 1943 (age 67 as of 2010)

Real Good Fella Henry Hill

Real Good Fella Henry Hill

I found Henry Hills life story quite interesting (not that I want to repeat it). First, he become a mobster and got to the high ranks in mafia. Then, after police got him, he testify against his friends and by doing that, he managed to be free and alive. That is a huge accomplishment for a mobster, but it is not the end of the story. He also becomes a world famous guy, thanks to the Hollywood movie about his life.

Henry Hill is still alive and actually he has his own web site. He had appeared on many TV Shows and gave many interviews. I guess, witness protection program is not working anymore.

Henry Hill

Henry Hill

So you can find out about him or even drop him a line at Henry’s Hill website (www.goodfellahenry.com). He has also on-line store where you can buy… No, not a gun or silencer, or drugs… You can buy coffee mugs, t-shirts or hats with pictures from Goodfellas movie.

Henry Hill helped to make GoodFellas movie and even got paid for this – two weeks in advance of the filming, the real Henry Hill was paid $480,000. To prepare for the role, Robert De Niro often called Henry Hill several times a day to ask how Burke walked, held his cigarette, and so on. Driving to and from the set, Liotta listened to FBI audio cassette tapes of Hill, so he could practice speaking like his real-life counterpart.

Henry Hill and Goodfellas Crew

Henry Hill and Goodfellas Crew

The cast did not meet Henry Hill during the film’s shoot but a few weeks before it premiered, Liotta met him in an undisclosed city. Hill had seen the film and told the actor that he loved it.

Henry Hill claimed to be clean until he was arrested in Nebraska in March 2005, after he left his luggage containing glass tubes with cocaine and other drug related articles.

Henry Hill battled alcoholism for years, claiming at one point that prison had saved his life.

Hill lives now in Santa Monica, approximately four miles from Malibu, California with his fiancee Lisa Caserta.

Real Good Fellow – James Burke, nickname “Jimmy the Gent” (movie – Jimmy Conway; actor – Robert De Niro)

July 5, 1931 – April 13, 1996 (age 64)

Real Good Fella James Burke

Real Good Fella James Burke

Jimmy Burke was shuttled around various homes and orphanages, where he suffered physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of various foster fathers and foster brothers. When he was 13 years old, Burke’s foster father died in a car crash – he lost control of the car when he turned around to hit Burke, who was riding in the back seat. The deceased man’s widow, who was in the car as well but survived, blamed Burke for the accident and gave him regular beatings until he was taken back into care.

Burke is rumored to have murdered and dismembered an ex-boyfriend of his bride because he was being a nuisance. The police found his body cut up in pieces all over the inside of his car.

Henry Hill said about Burke: “Jimmy could plant you just as fast as shake your hand. It didn’t matter to him. At dinner he could be the nicest guy in the world, but then he could blow you away for dessert.”

Although Burke was suspected of committing more than 50 murders, he was only convicted of one: the murder of Richard Eaton, a hustler and confidence man.

Old James Burke

Old James Burke

It was claimed that at the time the real life gangster Jimmy Burke was so happy to have Robert De Niro play him that he phoned him from prison to give him a few pointers. Author/screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi denies this, saying De Niro and Burke had never spoken, but admitting that there were men around the set all the time who had known all of the principal characters very well.

Had he lived he would have been eligible for parole in 2004, aged 73.

Real Good Fellow – Thomas Anthony “Two-Gun Tommy” DeSimone (movie – Tommy DeVito; actor – Joe Pesci)

May 24, 1950 – January 14, 1979 (age 28)

Real Good Fella Thomas DeSimone

Real Good Fella Thomas DeSimone

DeSimone was well-known for his violent temper. His sister was quoted saying “Tommy’s teen-age years revolved around boxing, lifting weights, smoking cigarettes, and beating the shit out of a punching bag he kept in a spare room. He had a short fuse, and an animalistic appetite. He would drink almost a gallon of whole milk a day. His only other childhood hobby was collecting different kinds of pocket knives he kept in an old cigar box under his bed”.

Hill described DeSimone and Burke by saying, “It didn’t take anything for these guys to kill you. They liked it. They would sit around drinking booze and talk about their favorite hits. They enjoyed talking about them.” Hill later described DeSimone as a “pure psychopath”. Hill suggested that DeSimone had something to prove because his older brother Anthony had become an informant and was allegedly murdered by the Gambino family.

In Gangsters and GoodFellas, Hill mentioned that DeSimone had killed around four people in prison, bringing the total to around 10 murders. Hill commented that DeSimone would murder someone just because he wanted to try out a new firearm and wouldn’t hesitate to use someone as human target practice.

The movie took some artistic liberties: primarily, DeSimone was seven years younger than Hill, not the same age (as implied when they first meet), and while depicted in the film as a small man with an attitude, DeSimone was a large, burly enforcer, standing about 6 ft 2in and over 200 pounds. He was also depicted in the film as a ladies man who was never married when he was, in fact, wed to Angela.

Hill, nevertheless, calls Pesci’s portrayal “between 90 and 95 percent accurate”, mentioning only that the diminutive Pesci did not physically resemble the tall, muscular DeSimone. Pesci was 46 years old during production of Goodfellas, while DeSimone was only in his teens and twenties during the events depicted in the film.

The scene where Tommy tells a story and Henry is responding to him — the “what’s so funny about me” scene — is based on actual event that happened to Joe Pesci. (Watch this episode on YouTube)

Famous Robberies from GoodFellas Movie

Air France Robbery

April 7, 1967

In 1967, $420,000 in cash was stolen from the Air France cargo terminal at New York City’s JFK International Airport. While there were a large number of cargo thefts at JFK airport in 1967, this was the largest cash robbery that had taken place at the time.

On the day of the robbery, Hill and Tommy DeSimone drove to the Air France cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport with an empty suitcase, the largest Hill could find. At 11:40 p.m, they entered the Air France cargo terminal. McMahon said that they should just walk in, as people often came to the terminal to pick up lost baggage. DeSimone and Hill entered the unsecured area unchallenged. They unlocked the door with the duplicate key. Using a small flashlight, they found seven of the bags, which they loaded into the suitcase and left. No alarm was raised, no shots fired, and no one was injured. The theft was not discovered until the following Monday, when a Wells Fargo truck arrived to pick up the cash to be delivered to the French American Banking Corporation.

Lufthansa Heist

December 11, 1978

The Lufthansa heist was a robbery at John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 11, 1978. An estimated $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewels were stolen, at the time making it the largest cash robbery ever committed on American soil. Only little fraction of this money and jewelry was recovered during investigation.

This robbery was organized by Jimmy Burke and committed by him, his crew and few members of other crime families. Driver Parnell “Stacks” Edwards (movie: Samuel L. Jackson) instead of destroying robbery car, he got high on marijuana in his girlfriend apartment and let police to discover the car. That is how police got close to Jimmy Burke.

Jimmy Burke had become so paranoid, that he murdered almost everybody from the robbery crew and many people associated with it.


GoodFellas on IMDB
GoodFellas on Wikipedia
Henry Hill on Wikipedia
Henry Hills personal website
James Burke on Wikipedia
Thomas DeSimone on Wikipedia
Air France Robbery on Wikipedia
Lufthansa Heist on Wikipedia

1 Comment

One Response

  1. Valrie Truocchio says:

    Excellent post over again. Thank you:)

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