Harvey Keitel (born May 13, 1939) is an American actor. Some of his most notable starring roles were in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Ridley Scott’s The Duellists and Thelma & Louise, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jane Campion’s The Piano, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, James Mangold’s Cop Land, and Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing.
Keitel grew up in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, with his sister, Renee, and brother, Jerry. At the age of sixteen, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps, a decision that took him to Lebanon, during Operation Blue Hat (to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt). After his return to the United States, he was a court reporter for several years and was able to support himself before beginning his acting career.
Keitel studied under both Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, eventually landing roles in Off-Broadway productions. During this time, Keitel auditioned for filmmaker Martin Scorsese and gained a part in Scorsese’s student production, Who’s That Knocking at My Door? Since then, Scorsese and Keitel have worked together on several projects. Keitel had the starring role in Scorsese’s Mean Streets, which also proved to be Robert De Niro’s breakthrough film. He later appeared with De Niro in Taxi Driver, playing the role of Jodie Foster’s pimp ‘Sport’.
Originally cast as Captain Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Keitel was involved with the first week of principal photography in the Philippines. Coppola was not happy with Keitel’s take on Willard, stating that the actor “found it difficult to play him a passive onlooker”. After viewing the first week’s footage, Coppola made the difficult decision to replace Keitel with a casting session favourite, Martin Sheen.
Keitel drifted into obscurity through most of the 1980s, taking mainly supporting roles in some good movies such as Bad Timing (1981) by Nicolas Roeg, The Border (1982) by Tony Richardson and Falling in Love (1984) with Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. He continued to do work on both stage and screen, but usually in the stereotypical thug roles. In 1987 he again worked with Scorsese as Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Another supporting role to Jack Nicolson in The Two Jakes (1990) before Ridley Scott cast Keitel as the sympathetic policeman in Thelma & Louise in 1991. That same year, he landed a role in Bugsy, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Keitel’s career revival continued when he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs (which he co-produced) in 1992, where his performance as “Mr. White” took his career to a different level. Since then, Keitel has chosen his roles with care, seeking to change his image and show off a broader acting range. One of those roles was the title character in Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant (1992), about a self-loathing, drug- addicted police lieutenant trying to redeem himself. He also appeared in the movie The Piano in 1993, and played an efficient clean-up expert Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994).
Keitel was back in a big way, he starred in Smoke and Clockers (both 1995), then in 1996 he had a major role in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s film, From Dusk Till Dawn, as the religious father of two, whose camper van is hijacked by Seth (George Clooney) and his twisted brother Richard (Quentin Tarantino). In 1997 he starred in the excellent crime drama Cop Land, which also starred Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta, and long-time collaborator Robert De Niro.
He’s been incredibly busy through the last decade, featuring in a lot of movies… can someone please give him another gritty leading role to get his teeth in to..?