During Goodfellas, Henry, Tommy, Jimmy, and the other members of the gang spend plenty of time at the Bamboo Lounge, owned by Sonny Bunz – played by Tony Darrow. Darrow actually spent plenty of time working at the real Bamboo Lounge in Canarsie, Brooklyn. During a scene in which Bunz complains and asks for help from Sorvino’s character, Scorsese instructed Bunz to improvise, using his knowledge of the lounge.
This change took Sorvino by surprise since no one had told him about the change to the shooting script, resulting in his genuine mystified look during the scene.
The Unexpected Slap
While the movie has plenty of violence, not all of it was planned. One hilarious moment comes when Paul Sorvino, playing the older mobster Paul Cicero, warns Ray Liotta's character Henry away from getting into the drug deals after Henry gets out of prison. Cicero slaps Henry in the face, and it was never in the script.
That slap was improvised by Cicero, hence Liotta’s noticeably shocked reaction to it. He had no idea it was coming, and it showed.
Paul Sorvino's Acting Dilemma
Days before Goodfellas began filming, Paul Sorvino wanted to back out of playing Paul Cicero. He reasoned that he did have what it took – visually – to play a brutal mob boss. Sorvino asked his agent to let Scorsese know, but his agent told him to sleep on it.
That night, Sorvino took a long, hard look into the mirror, and realized he was giving himself the very face of a mafioso. This look appeared numerous times in the film, including the dramatic scene in which Henry points out Cicero at the end of the film.
If there are any directions famous for their attention to detail in all aspects of a movie, then Martin Scorsese is at the top of the list. According to the late Ray Liotta, Scorsese spent so much time getting the cast's wardrobe correct that he didn't even let Liotta tie his own tie – Scorsese did it himself.
The clothes were required not only to accurately reflect the time period and the geography of New York, but they were also required for portraying the culture of the New York mafia. If you think just making sure a tie is right isn't all that attentive, then you just buckle up.
Extra Attention to Detail
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are both legends, and mostly thanks to each other. They've worked together a number of times, and not only are both of them incredible at their chosen craft, but they both take the film making business quite seriously.
In The Real Goodfella from 2006, the real-life Henry Hill said that Robert De Niro called him seven to eight times a day to ask him about Jimmy Burke, De Niro's character in the film. He called so often, and requested so much information, that he eventually started asking Hill about how Burke held his cigarettes.