Martin Scorsese's mother improvised most of her Goodfellas cameo

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Maureen Lee Lenker
·3 min read
Martin Scorsese's mother improvised most of her Goodfellas cameo
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Nobody loves TCM quite the way Martin Scorsese loves TCM — so it's only fitting that the legendary director and cinephile will be joining the 2021 virtual TCM Film Festival.

EW can exclusively announce that Scorsese will be joining the second virtual edition of the festival for two special introductions, one for Goodfellas on HBO Max (available from May 6) and one for Mean Streets on TCM airing May 6 at 11:15 p.m. ET.

In this exclusive clip from his introduction for Goodfellas, the director reveals that his mother, who cameos in the film as Tommy DeVito's (Joe Pesci) mother, improvised nearly her entire scene.

warner bros. Martin Scorsese's mother in 'Goodfellas'

"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. 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," Scorsese explains.

"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," he continues. "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 notes that the painting in the scene was done by the mother of screenwriter (and author of the book on which the film was based) Nicholas Pileggi.

The director reflects on how well the scene works, noting that the real familial atmosphere and his mother's genuine affection for his frequent screen collaborators helped produce the organic end result. "My mother treated Pesci and particularly Bob De Niro as family members, real family members, because we know each other for so long and to her, it was my son's friends were making a movie," Scorsese concludes.

Scorsese has long been a champion of TCM, appearing on the network and previously writing for their Now Playing guide. He's appeared in-person at the annual festival multiple times, where he's introduced film restorations overseen by his Film Foundation.

For his work on behalf of film preservation and cinema history, Scorsese was the inaugural recipient of the festival's Robert Osborne Award in 2018, where he was introduced by Leonardo DiCaprio and made a speech celebrating TCM.

The TCM film festival will air concurrently on TCM and HBO Max from May 6 to 9.

Related content: