Martin Scorsese Remembers Paul Sorvino: ‘A Great, Generous Soul, and an Irreplaceable Artist’

The filmmaker worked with the late Sorvino on 1990’s “Goodfellas”

Warner Bros.

Martin Scorsese has opened up about the loss of his former “Goodfellas” collaborator, the late actor Paul Sorvino.

Calling him “a great, generous soul, and an irreplaceable artist” in an official statement, the Oscar-winning filmmaker noted Sorvino’s dedication to his craft and compared him to some of the masters of the screen. Scorsese also detailed some of the actor’s lesser-known performances outside his tough-guy oeuvre.

“Paul Sorvino was a brilliant actor. He was completely immersed in his craft, and his level of mastery could take your breath away,” Scorsese began. “Look at his performance as Louis Fraina in ‘Reds’ by Warren Beatty. He found a wonderfully expressive voice for his character, and quite a unique body language: urgent, fervent, and impassioned. Watch it back to back with his performance as the televangelist in ‘Oh God’ by Carl Reiner. At first glance, it seems like a broad comic turn, a send-up of Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell. But when you really pay attention, you see that Paul is inhabiting the character completely. It’s hilarious but it’s also sobering and disturbing.”

It was that performance in “Oh God,” Scorsese explained, that convinced him to cast him to play Paulie Cicero in “Goodfellas.”

“I loved working with Paul on that picture. It wasn’t always easy, but that’s never the point to begin with. Paul was tireless — he never settled for less than a deeper emotional truth. I learned a lot from him.”

Scorsese continued: “I remember one day, I was doing a few takes with him on a scene and it wasn’t quite there. On about the third or fourth take, he said to me, ‘Come away from the monitor and watch me.’ That’s what I did, and I could see it right away. It was a great lesson.

“I was really saddened to hear the news of his passing,” the filmmaker concluded, “in part because it was so close to losing Ray Liotta. But it was also the loss of a great, generous soul, and an irreplaceable artist.”

Sorvino, the veteran actor and father to actor Michael Sorvino and actress and activist Mira Sorvino, was perhaps best known for his work in the Oscar-winning Scorsese feature. He died Monday at age 83 of natural causes.