According to an article published in The Guardian, an incident witnessed by Scorsese sealed the deal and guaranteed Liotta the role of Hill.
Scorsese recalled attending the Venice Film Festival for the world premiere of his controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ. Both men were in the Excelsior Hotel lobby when Liotta approached Scorsese, only to be rebuffed by Scorsese’s security personnel. Scorsese was immediately struck by the way Liotta handled the high-pressure moment. “Rather than throwing a tantrum and demanding that he be let through, he reacted calmly and calmly, observing the rules and patiently de-escalating the situation. He looked at me, I looked at him, and we signaled [sic] that we would talk, and he walked away.”
The actor’s attitude reminded him of Hill, leading Scorsese to realize he wanted the actor in the role of Hill. “I saw how he handled the situation with calm authority and genuine elegance. Actually, that was exactly what the role needed. Looking back on that, I think that was the moment I knew Ray should play Henry Hill.”
Interestingly, Liotta wasn’t the preferred choice for the role of Hill for everyone associated with “Goodfellas.” Scorsese’s producing partner Irwin Winkler stated that he didn’t think Liotta had enough charm to keep audiences mesmerized between kills. It took a face-to-face meeting with Liotta before Winkler realized Liotta was right for the role. The rest is moving history.