Streaming services like HBO Max are singlehandedly responsible for introducing new generations to older shows, and The Sopranos is definitely one of those shows. When it premiered over 20 years ago, the internet was not what it is today. The discourse around The Sopranos was limited to school, work, parties, an actual telephone, and perhaps the occasional message board. Now that we have unfettered access to each other, it's easy to hear about stories like why Ray Liotta turned down The Sopranos.
Because it's Ray Liotta, you can almost retcon him into the show. It's difficult to believe he wasn't there, which is why his presence in The Many Saints of Newark is such a treat. Finally, we're getting the Ray Liotta we should have had nearly 25 years ago. So who is he playing in The Many Saints of Newark?
Why did Ray Liotta turn down 'The Sopranos'?
There was always a rumor going around that Ray Liotta was tapped to play Tony Soprano (eventually played by James Gandolfini). In an interview with The Guardian, Ray had this to say, “No! I don’t know where that story came from. David [Chase, creator of The Sopranos] once talked to me about playing Ralphie [played by Joe Pantoliano], but never Tony.” Thank goodness that didn't happen. We can't imagine Ray Liotta being brutally murdered by Tony Soprano the way that Joe Pantoliano was.
Ray obviously turned down the role of Ralphie. “I didn’t want to do another mafia thing, and I was shooting Hannibal. It just didn’t feel right at the time,” he said. He felt differently about The Many Saints of Newark. Ray was so determined to be in the movie that he flew to New York to speak with David Chase directly, paying for the entire trip himself.
Who is Ray Liotta playing in 'The Many Saints of Newark'?
During his trip to New York to meet with David Chase, Ray Liotta ate lunch with David and his longtime collaborator on The Sopranos, Alan Taylor. By the end of the meal, Ray was offered the role of "Hollywood Dick." I think that role has been filled a million times over. In all seriousness, who is Hollywood Dick?
The many ways in which the characters on The Sopranos are related to each other can get quite confusing. Honestly, we're still not sure how Christopher Moltisanti (played by Michael Imperioli) and Tony are related. Hollywood Dick is the grandfather of Christopher Moltisanti, whose father, Dickie Moltisanti (played by Alessandro Nivola), was a mentor to young Tony Soprano (played by Michael Gandolfini). The Sopranos mentioned Dickie often, but we never heard about Dickie's father.
In order to play Hollywood Dick, Ray kept his face puffy by increasing his salt intake and wore a fat suit. His character is also an immigrant from Naples, so Ray learned a Neapolitan dialect. About this, he said, “It’s so hard, it's a whole different animal than speaking regular Italian. Don't even call it Italian." To do this, he chatted with the cousin of a friend, who spoke the dialect. “I taped him saying just the words I needed to say. And I would just listen to that all the time."
Ray's performance was applauded by David Chase. “Ray seems to be a rather quiet man,” said David, "but when the cameras roll, that electricity goes on and it's just mind-blowing.” The Many Saints of Newark is currently playing in theaters and is available to stream on HBO Max.