Stirring the Pot: Glenn Kenny on His New Goodfellas Book

And then I spoke to her. I said, “I’m writing a book about “Goodfellas,” I’d love to talk to you,” and the first thing she said was, “My husband’s the reason that movie got made.” 

Michael Powell. Schoonmaker’s late husband, of the Powell-Pressburger team of directors, the maker of “The Red Shoes” and “Black Narcissus” and other classics—and a friend and mentor of Scorsese’s.

Exactly. I knew of Powell’s support for that film. And in a subsequent interview with Scorsese, the last thing I did for the book, an interview I conducted on March 9th, right before the pandemic caused the shutdown of the city, Scorsese says that, having done all the prep work and imagining the film in his head after doing the script with Pileggi, and then going off and doing “The Last Temptation of Christ,” he felt in his own mind that he had made the film already, and that he wasn’t interested in shooting it. 

It was a letter from Michael Powell [praising the screenplay] and Powell’s constant, in-person encouragement which convinced Scorsese that he needed to go forward with it. 

Is there anything that, reading the book, you wish you’d put in but didn’t? 

I’ll tell you, there’s something I intended to put in but I didn’t, because it fell through the cracks of my notes, which is the fact that, in the Bamboo Lounge meeting-the-gang sequence—the Steadicam shot with “Hey, how you doin’?” “Yeah, I took care of that thing for you,” all of that—the scene is a much more elaborate version of, or homage to, to the shot in Fellini’s “I Vitelloni,” where you meet the guys in the outdoor restaurant! It’s not a Steadicam shot, obviously, because it’s the 1950s. It’s a lateral dolly to the left, and the guys are all sitting at tables. But they’re saying hello to the camera! 

And I was like, “Oh, this is perfect. This is his tribute, his elaboration on it.” It’s one of those cinephile things that is absolutely irrefutable. It’s not like a secret homage, it’s right there in your face. And somehow I didn’t put it in the goddamned book! So now someone else can! 

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You can order a copy of “Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas” here. The virtual book launch featuring a live conversation between Kenny, “Goodfellas” star Welker White and RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert hosted by WORD Brooklyn will take place at 6:30pm CT tonight, September 15th (register here).

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