The world lost a real “original gangster” this week: Henry Hill, whose life story was the basis for the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas died Tuesday at the age of 69.TMZ reports that Hill died in a Los Angeles hospital; his girlfriend, Lisa, said that the former mobster died after a long struggle with an undisclosed illness. “He had been sick for a long time…his heart gave out,” she told TMZ.
The above clip shows off an “artsier” (though no less grizzled) side of Henry Hill, in an interview in 2008 with George Stroumboulopoulos. Hill spent his later days painting, including a rat holding up a gun against the Manhattan skyline. “I feel so grateful that I was able to get out of it alive,” Hill says of his life of crime. “Because I came really close.”
Hill was infamous for his involvement with the Lucchese crime syndicate, with whom he became associated with while growing up up across the street from Lucchese family members in Brooklyn. He was quickly taken in and was given a job picking up loan shark payments and running errands for the gang. His criminal acts started with simple robberies later moved on to flashier and more elaborate crimes like extortion, drug dealing, point-shaving college basketball games and an infamous $5 million heist of cargo from a Lufthansa airliner. He later became an FBI informant and ratted out almost 50 prominent mob figures, and was placed in the Witness Protection Program (although he was soon kicked out for continuing his illegal ways).
His life was chronicled in Wiseguy, a book by journalist Nicholas Pileggi, which later served as the inspiration for Scorsese’s film, in which Ray Liotta played Hill.
“I can’t believe I was part of that,” Hill reflects in the video. Then, like a true Godfather, offers up his interviewer some dinner.