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"GoodFellas" is one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. Although this film took many years to achieve the box-office success it did, its enduring appeal and influence on contemporary movies can be seen today. The film's power lies in the remarkable acting performances by some of Hollywood's greatest actors, its superbly choreographed action sequences, and even in the fact that it has a story that can only be called unique writing.
Throughout the years "GoodFellas" has gone through numerous re-writes, cuts, adaptations, and even being produced as an HBO mini-series. Each time it was considered and then rewritten, re-adapted, or produced, there were changes made to the story to improve the film's storyline. For example, in the original version of the New York Mafia made up the California and Texas Mafia, as well as Michael Corleone and Al Capone, while later versions included the Genovese, Leone, Gambino, and DeWitt Clinton crime families.
The most recent changes to the storyline revolved around the Lutzes, and not surprisingly these were most likely due to Martin Scorsese directing "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In the original draft of the screenplay, the Lutzes had recently moved to New York, where Michael (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Al (Martin Sheen) had moved to a secluded island in the Bahamas with their young daughter, Vinnie (Michelle Pfeiffer).
During the filming of the film, Martin Scorsese decided that Ray (Kurt Russell) would star as Jimmy "the Greek" Lutzes and O'Brian (Tom Sizemore) would play his father Tony. This was done after Ray and Sizemore had finished filming "Lucky Number Slevin", which was their fifth collaboration together. O'Brian, however, refused to participate in the re-writes, and Ray eventually stepped into the role as Michael. To add to the contrast of his character, Tony Lutz would later also be portrayed by Robert De Niro in the film version of "Goodfellas".
By the time of filming "GoodFellas" the series of events depicted in the script would be so elaborate that viewers would know right away that it was not a re-telling of the events of the film, but a dramatic interpretation of the events that happened on the set. This is most evident in the elaborate car chase scenes, including the tense foot chase with Tom Sizemore and Ray Liotta's character.
In "GoodFellas" Tony's best friend, Roger "Cadillac" James (Robert De Niro), was assassinated on the set, but the events leading up to the murder took place after the movie was completed. Many scenes would then be expanded to include flashbacks to make the sequence easier to follow, while other scenes would be made more cinematic in order to create suspense.
Directors of the time made an effort to keep the story moving, even though directors in more modern times would attempt to re-write parts of the screenplay to make it less complicated. Nonetheless, directors like Scorsese still used the original script in the filming of "GoodFellas", and this is what allows the film to look so authentic. To add to the authenticity, scenes of old Sicilian wedding ceremonies that were filmed in a Boston studio were removed from the final cut of the film to remove any confusion that may arise from re-watching the film.
In the end, "GoodFellas" has made quite a name for itself as one of the best examples of visual storytelling in modern cinema. Whether it was the original screenplay or the acting, the work of the artisans that put the film together is truly amazing.