How Robert De Niro's Landlord Landed a Role in Goodfellas
by Simon Brew
Though it was released nearly 30 years ago, Martin Scorsese's mob classic Goodfellas remains a giant of the genre. It's a film packed with great performances, with Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci—who won an Oscar for the film—leading the charge.
But as he does with all of his movies, Scorsese made the smaller roles matter, too. Case in point: Morris "Morrie" Kessler, the bookmaker and wig salon owner who makes De Niro's Jimmy Conway's life miserable.
As Scorsese was looking to cast non-actors for many of the film's supporting roles, a number of real-life gangsters—many of whom reportedly required their payment in cash—filled out the cast.
Chuck Low, who played Morrie, wasn't a gangster, though. He was a landlord. Robert De Niro's landlord, as it happened, who was renting the actor the top three floors of a building he owned on Hudson Street in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood. (De Niro would subsequently buy the penthouse from him.)
Low's role in Goodfellas thus came when he simply told De Niro, "I wanna be in the movies, I wanna be in the movies"—a line that will sound familiar to fans of the film. Though Low's acting career didn't begin with Goodfellas, most of his work has been with De Niro, as this "investigation" shows. (He also appeared in an episode of Law & Order, and showed up in the first season of The Sopranos, too.) But it was his requests to his tenant that ultimately got him his IMDb page.