Playing Frank Sinatra Taught Ray Liotta A Lesson He Wouldn’t Forget

Ray Liotta knew how challenging playing Frank Sinatra would be. He turned down the opportunity on more than one occasion. First when one of Sinatra’s daughters asked if he’d play the icon in a television movie, and again when HBO came calling. Liotta told NPR:

“I turned it down a bunch of times. I wouldn’t do it. I was first asked to play him by Tina Sinatra or Nancy — one of the Sinatra daughters back when they did movie of the weeks. And they were doing a movie of the week of it. And I turned it down because I just didn’t want to do it at that time in my career. Then it came along. And it was during this down period for me. And they asked me — it was HBO. Rob Cohen directed it. And he called and asked if I would play it. And I said ‘No, no thanks, I don’t want to take on playing somebody that so many people knew,’ that I just felt the judgment would be too much.”

After Liotta finally acquiesced, things got, shall we say, uncomfortable with the Sinatra family. According to People, the Sinatra daughters sent Liotta a horse head in the mail, a callback to both Sinatra’s mob days and the 1972 movie “The Godfather.” Liotta explained, “Obviously, it wasn’t a real one, but it was a horse’s head. And, you know, a horse’s head means you’re toast. It turned out that his daughters sent it and said, ‘Oh, you could do this one, but you couldn’t do the one that we wanted you to?'”

Liotta was partly right about the role. Although it will never be considered his best movie, he channeled some harsh judgment into a career resurgence.

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