Why the Sequel to ‘Goodfellas’ Was a ‘90s Steve Martin Comedy

‘My Blue Heaven’ was payback for a real mobster’s annoying phone calls
Why the Sequel to ‘Goodfellas’ Was a ‘90s Steve Martin Comedy

While the sequel to The Godfather didn’t star George Carlin, and there is no Scarface 2 featuring Rodney Dangerfield, one iconic gangster movie did get a follow-up starring a famous comedian, albeit an unofficial one. 

My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis, essentially picks up where Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed Goodfellas left off — a former mobster starts a new life as a “schnook” in a quiet town after being relocated by the Witness Protection Program. 

Apart from the fact that Martin’s character is named Vinnie Antonelli, and Ray Liotta’s Goodfellas protagonist is Henry Hill, the two movies kind of work as one tonally-wonky story — oh, and you have to overlook Martin’s goofy, Vanilla Ice-esque hairdo. 

How did two disparate films, both released in 1990, come to share so much narrative DNA? Well, Goodfellas was based on the non-fiction book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by journalist Nicholas Pileggi, which was all about Hill, the real life mobster-turned-informant. Pileggi just so happened to have been married to writer-director Nora Ephron, best known for giving Tom Hanks insomnia and later introducing him to AOL. 

Ephron based My Blue Heaven on Hill, who routinely called her and Pileggi from his new home in Redmond, Washington. “He single-handedly started a crime wave, because there was no crime there,” Ephron told NPR, “and we kept getting all these collect phone calls from Henry asking for bail and asking for various other forms of assistance.”

Instead of getting annoyed, Ephron saw the story potential in Hill’s predicament. She started interviewing Hill separately from Pileggi. “He’s talking to me in the morning, he’s talking to her at night. She saw the humor in it,” Pileggi recalled.

According to Hill, he would sometimes “get half-gassed and call Nick in New York just to bullshit. It was like therapy for me.” But when Ephron answered, she would occasionally say, “Hey, Nick is sleeping. What’s the matter, Henry? This is Aunt Nora.” Hill had no idea that she was actually mining him for screenplay ideas and was secretly “taking notes.” 

That is until he caught My Blue Heaven. “When I saw it, I flipped because she used some of the stuff I had told her on the phone for her movie scenes,” Hill wrote in his memoir. “I never got a penny for it, but Nick had been so generous with me that I just let it slide. Had it been anyone else’s wife…” 

In another interview, Hill conceded that his countless phone calls to Pileggi and Ephron were actually pretty annoying: “I bothered them so much I thought she earned that, so I didn’t sue.”

Of course, My Blue Heaven isn’t nearly as fondly remembered as Goodfellas — although it did give us cinema’s greatest pronunciation of “arugula.” 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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