Henry Hill died last week. As I read the quote from his manager that said, “He went out pretty peacefully, for a goodfella” I reflected on why Hill’s story was so fascinating to Martin Scorsese. I can only speculate, but from Scorsese’s films it seems that he likes making movies about characters who are groomed for a specific thing.
In Raging Bull, that thing is boxing. In Taxi Driver, it’s self-righteous violence. In Goodfellas, it’s being a gangster. In The Last Temptation of Christ, it’s being the messiah. Many of Scorsese’s films look at what happens to someone when the way of life they’ve become accustomed to is taken away. Reading Hill’s achievements after his life in the mob echoes the ending of Raging Bull. In the public eye, it seemed that Henry Hill was always referring back to his infamous past, still trying to partially relive it. I mean, even I remember reading his guest piece for Maxim in the ’00s about his old haunts around New York & thinking, then, “Really? Still playing this tune?”
Well, I guess you have to do something to relieve the boredom of straight life:
With Scorsese’s themes in mind, I would be interested to see Mr. Director make a movie or documentary about past reality show contestants. As John Jeremiah Sullivan discussed in his essay “Getting Down To What is Really Real,” a reality show contestant is pretty much defined by that one part of their past, mostly because of the contractual appearances you are required to make afterward that keep a person trapped in that surreal world. After the producers are done with them, what life skills have been gained from the experience? You could say that the question is just a reworking of what Scorsese has been exploring all along. What happens to a person who has outlived their infamy is parallel to someone who has outlived their fast and troubled past. Henry Hill’s story might be still worth paying attention to after all.