Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the release of Goodfellas, and to celebrate, GQ has an interview with producer Irwin Winkler that reveals how one of the greatest mob films ever made (and in your Newswire editor’s humble opinion, quite possibly the greatest film ever made) almost starred Tom Cruise and Madonna. "Tom Cruise was discussed,” Winkler says in the article, excerpted here in the New York Post. “Marty [Scorsese, director] wanted Ray [Liotta]. Frankly I thought we could do a lot better.” Fortunately, Ray Liotta managed to convince Winkler by haranguing him during dinner. There’s no resolution to the story of how Madonna’s name was dropped from the running—producer Barbara de Fina is just quoted as saying that she was “in the mix,” and that she and Scorsese went to check her out in a performance of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. (Presumably she went with Dick Tracy instead?) It’s an interesting glimpse into what might have been, one that confirms the “plug the two biggest names you can find, regardless of whether they fit” formula has been alive and well in the filmmaking industry for pretty much forever. We suppose the No. 2 choices would have been Kevin Costner and Lisa Bonet?
Anyway, as difficult as it is to conceive of Goodfellas in anything but its Liotta-and-Lorraine Bracco form, we have to admit that the idea of Cruise playing Henry Hill…well, it isn’t completely terrible. Lest we forget, Scorsese already got a decent performance out of Cruise in The Color Of Money, and 1990 was long before Cruise began ascending the OT levels toward becoming impossible to separate from his frequently irritating real-life persona. The biggest complaint probably would have been buying Cruise as a kid who angled his way into the mob in the ’60s when he obviously should have been trying to be the next Paul Newman, but as easy as it is to rip on Cruise from a contemporary perspective, he probably would have done just fine if he’d taken it easy with the megawatt smiles. Still, Goodfellas benefits greatly from Liotta’s weird, weaselly energy, and even when he’s trying to do high strung, there’s something a little too polished, self-consciously cool, and above all actor-y about Cruise that would have ultimately have proved distracting. It’s an interesting topic for debate, though, and one wonders what it would have done to Cruise’s career had he followed Born On The Fourth Of July and Rain Man with this film instead of Days Of Thunder. Robbed us of the '90s version of Gable and Lombard, obviously, but other stuff too.
Madonna, on the other hand, just sounds awful, even by 1990 standards. Thank God that didn't happen.