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'Goodfellas' inspiration Henry Hill dead at 69

Wednesday - 6/13/2012, 9:29am  ET

Jason Fraley, WTOP Film Critic

WASHINGTON - His life inspired Martin Scorsese's movie masterpiece "Goodfellas" (1990).

Now, mob rat Henry Hill has died.

Hill participated in the infamous 1978 "Lufthansa" heist, stealing a then-record $5 million from Kennedy Airport.

His story was chronicled in Nicholas Pileggi's novel "Wiseguy," documenting three decades of crime in New York City, from the rock 'n' roll 1960s to the cocaine- snorting '80s.

He was immortalized by Ray Liotta in the 1990 gangster classic, co-starring Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro and Lorraine Bracco.

Hill's own words drip from every frame in voiceover narration, also written by Pileggi, husband of "When Harry Met Sally" writer Nora Ephron.

It was arguably the best role of Liotta's career, coming a year after his turn as Shoeless Joe Jackson in "Field of Dreams" (1989). Ironically, that film's co-star Kevin Costner robbed Scorsese of the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for "Dances with Wolves" (1990).

After a life of crime, Hill turned informant, helping federal agents arrest dozens of mobsters.

He spent years in witness protection, but was kicked out in the early 1990s, shortly after being busted on drug charges in 1987.

In 2005, he served six months for methamphetamine possession.

His long-time manager and girlfriend Lisa Caserta says his death was due to complications from a heart attack triggered by his inability to quit smoking.

Hill was 69.

Read more from WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley by clicking "Fraley on Film" under the "Living" tab above, following @JasonFraleyWTOP on Twitter, and checking out his blog, The Film Spectrum.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)