GQ has an excellent recollection piece about the making of Martin Scorsese‘s Goodfellas, which opened 20 years and three days ago (on 9.19.90).

Martin Scorsese (director; co-writer): “I’d seen Ray Liotta in Something Wild, Jonathan Demme‘s film; I really liked him. And then I met him. I was walking across the lobby of the hotel on the Lido that houses the Venice Film Festival, and I was there with The Last Temptation of Christ. I had a lot of bodyguards around me. Ray approached me in the lobby and the bodyguards moved toward him, and he had an interesting way of reacting, which was he held his ground, but made them understand he was no threat. I liked his behavior at that moment, and I saw, Oh, he understands that kind of situation. That’s something you wouldn’t have to explain to him.”

Liotta: “I think I was the first person that Marty met, but it took maybe a year. It was a very, very long process, not knowing anything and really wanting to do this. I was new. I’d only done three movies at the time. All I heard was that the studio wanted somebody else — ‘What about this?’ ‘What about Eddie Murphy?’

Winkler: “Marty wanted Ray very badly. Frankly I thought we could do a lot better, and I kept putting him off saying, ‘Let’s keep looking.’ And then me and my wife were having dinner one night in a restaurant down in Venice, California, and lo and behold, Ray Liotta came over to me. He was in the same restaurant, quite by coincidence, and he asked if he could come talk to me.”

Liotta: “I just went up and said that I really, really wanted to do the movie.”

Winkler: “We went outside, he said, ‘Look, I know you don’t want me for it but I…,’ and he really sold me on the role right that evening. I called Marty the next morning and I said, ‘I see what you mean.'”

The piece was reported by Sarah Goldstein, Alex Pappademas, Nathaniel Penn and Christopher Swetala, and compiled by Penn.