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It's a conversation that offers insight beyond the broadcast. On this episode, Anthony Mason talks to Harvey Keitel. What was the first show you were in? Remember? I think it was in Cafe La Mama.
Cafe La Mama, okay. I played a dog. You played a dog?
No lines. The actor is known for his intensity and for turning supporting roles into standout performances. But even with a six-decade career, the former Marine says Hollywood doesn't consider him bankable.
Here's Anthony's interview with Harvey Keitel. How did your family feel about you being an actor? You knew what the answer to that one was going to be, didn't you?
Good guess. Okay, I'll make a long story short. When I said to them, I'm going to study acting, my father said, summed it up, he said, actor schmactor.
So that's how they felt. Actor schmactor. Your dad, your dad, your dad sold, made hats, right? Yeah. Yeah.
Sewing machine operator. Yeah. And did they, did they run, did your parents run a luncheonette or something?
Did I read that? Yeah, they owned various luncheonettes and places in Brooklyn. Yeah. I mean, one at a time. Right. They were a chain. Right.
Did you get the, did you get put to work in those ever? Yeah, sure. Yeah.
I made the best egg cream in Brooklyn. Did you? Yeah. That's, that's a trick. Okay, somebody get the chocolate and the milk has to be frozen. That's the secret? Yeah. To the creamy top.
The creamy top. So when did you decide you loved acting? Because it, I mean, it sounds like it was, this turn you made was pretty unexpected. Well, that, that's quite a journey, you know.
I don't know if you have time for all this, but I'll take my time and you take your time, okay? Yeah, fair enough. Well, I wanted to make money.
You know, Hollywood people, I thought all of them had money. Yeah. And so when, in my acting class, after Anthony Menino, I studied with this wonderful director. His name is Michael Kahn.
Yeah. He's very well known in the theater world. He runs the theater.
I think he runs the theater in Washington DC now. Wonderful guy. We were all young at that time, you know. Right.
And this one kid in my acting class, another young black man. Yeah. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, still. He said to me, he said to me, Harvey, you have to leave Brooklyn and move to Manhattan if you want to be an actor. Right. You cannot be an actor living in Brooklyn. And I said to him, you don't understand Rufus.
Rufus Collins was his name. Yeah. I said, I just want to make money.
I don't care about being an actor. So he was fed up with me, you know. And so I kept studying because I wanted to get good at it. Yeah. And eventually in years to come, years that came, I understood it wasn't just to make money. Yeah. Some part of you connected to it. Yeah.
What was that? Acting is doing things truthfully with a purpose. It was that purpose, I suppose, that sunk in. Yeah. In your case, what was that purpose, though? Awareness. Awareness. And having lived a life that wasn't very creative, except for the part of the Marines.
Yeah. Growing up in Brooklyn, and there was no real appreciation for the arts. My family, they were working class people, you know, lower working class people. And so I was never, I was never introduced to art of any kind. It's interesting to me that you describe being the Marines as creative. Well, you've never been on Parris Island. You have to get real creative there. Or else you're gonna suffer. That's an interesting way of using the word creative. I like it. Well, I'll tell you why. I mean, all joking aside. I learned my first lesson about mythology. I'll classify it that way.
About a sense of truth. In the Marine Corps, during a night combat training class, I was out there in boondocks with a couple of hundred other recruits on Parris Island. You couldn't see a hand in front of your face. It was a night combat thing. Bright moon, and all of a sudden a voice yells out, you're all afraid of the dark.
Booms out across this field we're in. And I got scared because I was scared. Anyway, I said, how the hell did somebody know I was scared? I was trying to hide it. No one could see me. I couldn't see them. And we looked across the field there and there was a silhouette on like a box.
And we could see the silhouette only. And this young Marine instructor said something like this in paraphrasing. You're afraid of the dark. We're all afraid of what we don't know. But we're going to teach you to live in the dark so that you will no longer be afraid. That for me was the first I heard about being so honest about what you're feeling. Like fear. Not hiding it. It was an important lesson to learn. It's interesting to me because a lot of the parts you play are about the light and the dark in people. And the battle that goes on there.
Well, I just told you. That night that young Marine opened up that door of fear and my awareness that I was trying to hide. And that became part of my exploration of being on the planet. And all the work I did after the Marines.
When I got bored being a course sonographer and went to the theater and met all these wonderful young people thinking and coming from good educations. You had a pretty nasty stutter as a kid. Yeah. You can hear it now a little bit. I don't actually. I mean, you feel like you do.
Then I'm doing a good job hiding. So how did you deal with that as a kid? It was terrible. It was. It was awful.
You know, kids make fun of you, your friends make fun of you. Yeah. And very naturally world kids.
But it was terrible. And I always wished it was something I could come up with that could help heal young people that do have a bad stutter. And I think about it constantly. And the only thing I've ever been able to come up with was awareness.
And buenas. Trying to become aware in the literature, in the arts. Awareness might help them. How did you conquer it? I studied in the Marine Corps, not as barely as I did as a child. And I just studied at times. As a child, I studied all the time.
And the Marines just rarely. But there was no one way I conquered it. It was just what I'm saying now.
The best advice I could give as a result of my experience is awareness of yourself. Yeah. My stepfather had it. I mean, it sort of slowly went away. Yeah.
Well, I don't know what his experience was, but mine slowly went away if 20, 25 years slowly going away. And painfully so. Yeah. Did you have it when you started acting too? Well, I never started acting.
But no, sort of like you hear me now. Yeah. Interesting. No, it never interfered with acting.
It didn't? No, no, no. Talk to me a little bit about Taxi Driver. Yeah. And that part?
Well, Maude had wanted me to play the campaign worker in it that Albert Brooks played. Yeah. And I said, let me play the pimp. And he said, pimp?
Pimp has three lines. Yeah. I said, let me play the pimp.
Why? Because when I was living in Hell's Kitchen at the time. Yeah. So I used to see all the pimps along there anyway.
And so Maude said, okay. And I found a guy, well, I was trying to find someone who knew something about being a pimp. Yeah.
Which I knew nothing about. And I remember I approached, oh, at that time, I was doing Death of a Salesman at Circle and Square Theatre that George Scott had directed with, oh, what's her name, a wonderful actress, Halle V. She did The Men with Marlon Brando, Theresa Russell, Theresa Wright. Okay, Theresa Wright, yeah. And I went over to this one prostitute there. And before I was, I went into the theatre, I said, can I ask you a question? Can I talk to you for a second? She said, what do you want?
She's dressed, you know, for trade. I said, well, that's my name on that card over there, you know, outside the theatre. And I said, I'm doing a movie and I'm playing a pimp in the movie. Now, this girl is standing there looking at me like this, you know, and I'm trying to, I said, and I'm playing a pimp and I don't know anything about being a pimp.
Would you talk to me about it? And she looked at me and said, get out of here, are you crazy? That was it. I said, okay, okay. And then I found the guy. I found a guy, this guy, and I took him to the actor's studio, not the sessions, I snuck him in because I wanted to use rehearsal studios downstairs. And for about two weeks, we improvised the scenes that were not written in Taxi Driver. I'd play the girl and he'd improvise with me going to work. And then I began playing him and he played the girl.
And after those two weeks, also I did something really silly in those two weeks. He was taking me to meet some people that were, you know, you know, not doing legal things. And I wired myself. You, to record it.
Yeah. I wired myself. I stood in my little place, middle room, and I taped myself, tape, because I said, they cannot see you, Harvey.
You cannot get caught. I had tape all over me. I mean, like I was tape man, you know. And I said to him, I have to tell you this, you know, I'm wired. He said, what? I said, I taped myself so I can record it. He said, are you nuts?
You're going to get us killed. Take that tape off. I had to put my shirt and take all the tape off.
What were you hoping to get? Authenticity. In Pulp Fiction, you take another pretty small role, but make it very... There are no small parts, only small actors.
Konstantin Stanislavsk. So that never seems to dissuade you. You see something in those small roles.
Alice doesn't live here anymore. Pulp Fiction. Taxi driver.
Had three lines to begin with. Yeah. I had good training. I was lucky to meet the greats. A lot to be said about them. A lot to be said about... About them. Yes.
Those magnificent teachers, the training that's available. Yeah. You went through a period in the 80s that a lot of people look at as kind of a low period for you in terms of roles in this country at least. I didn't want to work with those stupid low lifes. Yeah, I did.
Go through a period. I went to Europe. It seemed that the Europeans wanted to work with me. Bertrand Tavernier. I'm proud to say I'm introducing next week in Morocco at the film festival.
They're honoring him for a lifetime career. Yeah. So an actress friend of mine said let's go see this movie The Clockmaker of St. Paul. A French director. We went and I saw this magnificent cinema that I wasn't aware of and I said that's the kind of director I want to work with. About within a month's time, I read in an article someone pointed out to me, Bertrand Tavernier, he said, Harvey Keitel is the kind of actor I want to work with. And Bertrand Tavernier and I got together on this movie Death Watch with Rami Schneider. Yeah. I love Rami Schneider.
Yeah. She was great. She was great. They're going to show it at the Moroccan film festival now. And Hollywood didn't seem interested in me and the Europeans did.
Lina Vermula, Jane Campion, oh gosh, Dario Argento and others I can't think now. Yeah. Well.
What do you think? At that period, there were others afterwards. Sure. Why do you think at that point in time Hollywood seemed to lose interest in you? Gosh, if I knew that I'd bottle it and sell it. I mean, I think they've lost interest now. You do? I do. Because everything is box office. Yeah.
Not that things don't have to be box office, they have to be. Yeah. But not everything. Right.
And right now it's everything. So, if you haven't been fortunate enough to make it to the top tier at the box office, then you have not made it to the place they call bankable where you can get a film done. Right. And that leaves you to struggle along with the rest of us to get films done. Yeah. Do you share Marty's feelings about Marvel films? I read what he wrote about Marvel films and, I mean, listen, there isn't a person that's brighter, more passionate about film than Marty Scorsese. Smart about it.
I feel the way he does about what I'm trying to express now by Hollywood's pension desire anthem. Are they bankable? Are they bankable? Are they bankable? Are they bankable? To be bankable is essentially to be a star, yes?
Yeah. Do you not think of yourself as a star? I think of myself as a former Marine who got lucky. Really lucky. Because where I came from, with no education, so to speak, there wasn't that encouragement to go toward the arts.
Because it was absent. It's like a vacuum. So I'm just grateful for the luck I've had, the people I met.
Including the Marines. Hi, podcast peeps. It's me, Drew Barrymore.
Oh my goodness. I want to tell you about our new show. It's the Drew's News Podcast. And in each episode, me and a weekly guest are going to cover all the quirky, fun, inspiring, and informative stories that exist out in the world because, well, I need it.
And maybe you do too. From the newest interior design trend to the most recent interior design trend, Barbie Corps, to the right and wrong way to wash your armpits. Also, we're going to get into things that you just kind of won't believe and we're not able to do in daytime television. So watch out. Listen to Drew's News wherever you get your podcasts. It's your good news on the go.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-28 06:15:40 / 2023-01-28 06:22:44 / 7