At numerous times during the movie, De Niro’s character is seen holding or handing out, money. However, the fake money that movies used back in the day have a distinct feeling, and De Niro hates it. The person in charge of props for Goodfellas handed De Niro five thousand dollars from his own pocket. the entire crew was conscripted to ensure every single dollar remained accounted for.
After filming was done each day, not a single person was allowed to leave the set until it had all been collected and counted.
I've Been Waiting for This Phone Call
Before he even started on "Goodfellas," director Martin Scorsese had decided – nay, vowed – he didn't want to make any more mafia films. That changed, of course, when he read the Nicholas Pileggi book, "Wiseguy." Once he read it, he cold-called the writer and said how excited he was to transport the story to the big screen.
"Goodfellas" was based on "Wiseguy", and Pileggi even wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. When Scorsese called Pileggi, the original author said “I've been waiting for this phone call my entire life.”
To Play Jimmy, or to Play Tommy?
The legendary Robert De Niro was given two different roles as options: the elder and mentor-like Jimmy Conway, or the hyper-violent and brutal Tommy DeVito. De Niro chose to play Jimmy – because he's De Niro, and could have been a flower girl if he wanted – and Joe Pesci ended up playing the role of Tommy.
Pesci won an Oscar for his role. He had one of the best acceptance speeches ever – look it up. The two roles of Jimmy and Tommy were reportedly based on real-life mobsters James Burke and Thomas DeSimone, respectively.
The Real Fat Andy
The character of Fat Andy was played by real-life NYPD detective Louis Eppolito, who happened to have family ties to the mafia – his father, cousin, and uncle had all been members. His life took a dark turn in 2005 when he and Stephen Caracappa, his police partner, received charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice, extortion, and eight counts of murder, as well as numerous other charges.
In a plot that is straight out of a Scorsese movie, both of them were found guilty and sentenced to life terms in federal prison.
The Real Mafiosos
Original writer Nicholas Pileggi has gone on record stating actual Mafia members were hired as extras in order to help give the movie an authentic feeling – and nobody can deny that it worked. However, the mobsters, to no surprise, didn't want to garner any high profiles, given the nature of their work.
To that end, they gave Warner Brothers, the film's distributor, fake social security numbers. You may know that this can cause havoc with receiving payment – and whether or not these real gangsters ran into those troubles or not is unknown, and likely will remain so.