by Jack Tewksbury  

For forty years the HFPA has recorded interviews with famous and celebrated actresses, actors, and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind — over 10,000 interviews — is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. The audios are fascinating. Below is an excerpt: in 1990, at the time GoodFellas came out, Martin Scorsese recalled how the real goodfellas came into his life as a young boy growing up in New York’s Little Italy. GoodFellas went on to receive six Golden Globe nominations. Throughout his career, Scorsese collected three Golden Globes and a Cecil B. deMille award.

“I  grew  up  in  a  neighborhood  like  the  one  we  see  in  my  film  GoodFellas.  Except  it  was a tenement  in Manhattan, not  in Queens.  I  was  one  of  the  kids  playing  in  the street.  Some  people  were  nicer  to  us,  others  were  nastier, but  we  grew  to  know  them  as  people  first.  They  used  Irish  and  English  nicknames,  nothing  to  do  with  Italian names, like  Don.

I started  to  be  aware  that  certain  people  were  treated  differently. You  could  gather  how  powerful they  were  by  the  way  people  moved  around  them.  They  sat  quietly  but  you  could  feel  the presence of power  emanating  from  them.

Later  on  we  thought  that  the  ones  who  were  boisterous, wore  loud clothes, and  were  more openly  brutal, were  the  wiseguys.  But  we  found out  later  that  it’s  the quieter  ones,who  control  things  from  the  backrooms  of  coffee  shops,  who  are  the  real  GoodFellas.

And  in  the  area  where  I  grew  up,  many  of  the  young   boys  aspired  to  become  gangsters  like  them — or,  like  me,   to  be  priests.  Our  heroes  were  either  one  or  the  other.

In  America  there  are  twenty  million  Italian  Americans,  among  them  Supreme  Court  justices,  governors,  senators,  doctors,  scientists.  Of  the  twenty  million,  maybe  only  four  thousand  of  these  are  GoodFellas, organized  crime  members, according  to  the FBI. So  it’s  a  very  small  aspect  of  the  community.

We  can  argue  about  the extent  of  the  phenomenon,  about  the  constant  portrayal  of  them  in  books  and  films,  but  we  cannot  deny  their  existence. Twenty  years  ago  there  was  an  attempt  to  deny  it  completely,  but  it  failed.”