A fact-based story about Italian-Irish mobster Henry Hill. Hill rose through the ranks of his Brooklyn neighborhood's organized crime branch, and with money from the Mob, he lived the good life, complete with a beautiful bride, a fancy home, and the best seats at the Copacabana. Even his first stay in prison wasn't too bad -- thanks to friends who smuggled in the makings for a proper marinara sauce. But after Hill's release, he got involved in selling cocaine, despite the fact that his family boss strictly forbade dealing in narcotics. Henry began a downward spiral, painfully descending into addiction, and becoming careless. Soon federal agents closed in on his operation, and, confronted with the possibility of massive punishment, Henry cut a deal with the witness protection program -- a plan he wasn't altogether sure he could live with.
Based on Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguys" this wry, violent, and partly true story spans thirty years in the life of Henry Hill, an aspiring criminal; his milieu, the psychotic wiseguy he courts, and Scorsese's inimitable rendering of Mobland habits and mores, which features one of the longest "tracking shots" in film and a virtual timeline of hit songs. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including best Picture, Best Director, Best (Adapted) Screenplay. Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor--Joe Pesci.
Shot on location in Queens and Manhattan, New York, and Fort Lee, New Jersey.
In competition at the Venice Film Festival, where director Martin Scorsese won the Silver Lion. It was shown at The American Museum of the Moving Image during a Scorsese/De Niro Festival. It was voted best film by the New York Film Critics Circle, who also voted Scorsese Best Director. Robert De Niro was voted Best Actor by the same organization for his work in this film, and in "Awakenings." It won the Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci), Best Supporting Actress (Lorraine Bracco), and Best Cinematography (Michael Ballhaus) awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Joe Pesci also won a Best Supporting Actor of 1990 award from the National Board of Review.
The sixth film that Robert De Niro has made with Martin Scorsese, and they worked together the following year in Scorsese's remake of "Cape Fear." The two started their association in the early days of Scorsese's filmmaking career, when he was casting "Mean Streets" (1973). Scorsese was looking for an actor who could bring an air of authenticity to the role of Johnny Boy, a crazy boy from the streets of Little Italy on a collision course with disaster. De Niro was suggested by Scorsese's friend, Francis Ford Coppola, and was hired. They have since formed a legendary working relationship, with Scorsese providing De Niro with some of his most complex roles, including James Conway in "GoodFellas," Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver" (1976), and Max Cady in "Cape Fear" (1991). The film also reunites De Niro and Joe Pesci, who played brothers in Scorsese's 1980 masterpiece "Raging Bull."
Scorsese has been known to use his parents in his films, as he does here, and he actually made a documentary about their lives, "Italian American." His mother, Catherine Scorsese also had a bit part in Coppola's "The Godfather Part II" (1974).
Actress Debi Mazar, former makeup artist for Madonna, plays a small role here. She went on to become the wisecracking receptionist on the TV series "Civil Wars," and is joining the cast of "L.A. Law" in the 1993-4 season.
Chuck Low, who played Morris Kesssler, was actually Robert De Niro's real estate broker, who rented him the penthouse in what later became the TriBeCa Film Center.