Martin Scorsese says his mother’s Goodfellas cameo was almost entirely improvised

Classic 1990 film also starred Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta

Ellie Harrison
Wednesday 05 May 2021 08:47 BST
Goodfellas clip: Opening scene

Martin Scorsese has revealed that his mother’s cameo in the 1990 film Goodfellas was almost entirely improvised.

In the movie, Catherine Scorsese appears as Tommy DeVito’s (Joe Pesci) mother, who has not seen her murderous son in a long time.

“There was some violence, and the aftermath of it was they have to stop off at Joe Pesci’s house, his mother’s house, to pick up a shovel so they can bury the guy,” explained Scorsese at the 2021 virtual TCM Film Festival. “They enter the house around three in the morning, and they’re met by Joe Pesci’s mother, Tommy’s mother, and that’s played by my mother. All we told her to do was just welcome her son home; she hasn’t seen him in a while.”

He added: “The key there is ultimately the warmth between all of them and particularly my mother playing his mother; he may be a psychopathic killer, but he’s still her son. When people talk about improvisation, this really was improvisation.

“We had a few ideas on set we played... but basically once we started shooting, she picked up on something and started speaking. Joe answered her, Bob [De Niro] did what he did, Ray [Liotta] did what he did, I had two cameras, we’re in a small house in Queens, and I think the only written line was about a painting that she did.”

Scorsese also said the painting in the scene was done by Susie Pileggi, the mother of the film’s screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi.

A video of the director attempting to identify “feminine products” recently went viral on TikTok, after his daughter Francesca uploaded a clip in which she quizzed Scorsese on his knowledge of the items.

The Irishman director is currently shooting his next film, the serial killer drama Killer of the Flower Moon, starring De Niro, Jesse Plemons and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in