Martin Scorsese Remembers Working With The 'Irreplaceable' Paul Sorvino On Goodfellas

Paul Sorvino, the accomplished actor behind crucial parts in "Goodfellas" and Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," died on July 25 at age 83, but director Martin Scorsese was quick to share his memories of the performer in the wake of his heartbreaking passing.

In a statement (via The Wrap), Scorsese penned:

"Paul Sorvino was a brilliant actor. He was completely immersed in his craft, and his level of mastery could take your breath away. 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."

Two greats working together

Sorvino's "Oh God" performance is what propelled Scorsese to cast him as Brooklyn crime family head Paulie Cicero in the now-iconic "Goodfellas," which propelled Sorvino to greater heights as a working actor. The filmmaker opened up further about what it was like to collaborate with the supporting actor in the beloved 1990 mobster feature in his statement.

"I loved working with Paul on that picture," the director added. "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. ... 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."

Saying goodbye to the Goodfellas

Finally, the filmmaker reflected on losing not only Sorvino, but also "Goodfellas" leading man Ray Liotta this year. "I was really saddened to hear the news of his passing," Scorsese noted. "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."

It's been a one-two punch for fans of the regarded mafia film over the last few months. Liotta died at age 67 on May 26, a passing that shook the film world and leaves us with several posthumous film and television releases to discover from him in the near future.

Sorvino was perhaps best known for his role in the Oscar-winning crime drama, but his legacy spans stage and screen. In 1972, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the play "That Championship Season," so his talents were truly all over the map. He is survived by his children, actors Michael and Mira Sorvino, and his wife, Dee Dee Benkie.