Martin Scorsese confirms his mother’s ‘Goodfellas’ cameo was mostly improvised

The Oscar-winning director's mother appears opposite Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in the 1990 film

Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese has said that his mother Catherine’s cameo in Goodfellas was almost entirely improvised.

At the 2021 virtual TCM Film Festival, Scorsese spoke about the scene from the iconic 1990 mafia film in which his mother featured. Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta also appeared in the scene, with Pesci playing Scorsese’s son.

“When people talk about improvisation, this really was improvisation,” said the 78-year-old Scorsese at the festival, as Entertainment Weekly reports. “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.”


Mrs. Scorsese appeared in several of her son’s films including Mean Streets, Casino and Taxi Driver, before passing away in 1997. On her Goodfella‘s cameo, the director said: “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.”

Martin Scorsese is currently filming Killers of the Flower Moon, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. DiCaprio will be collaborating twice more with the filmmaker on a feature biopic of President Theodore Roosevelt, and The Devil in the White City, an upcoming TV show about serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes.

Meanwhile, the director has also confirmed that he will be making a “three-year series” about Christianity with Paul Schrader.