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Harvey Keitel

Lawrence Bush
May 12, 2017

Actor Harvey Keitel was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1938 to immigrant parents who ran a luncheonette. After a stint in the Marines, Keitel studied acting with both Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler; today he is a co-president of the Actors Studio. He has appeared in films ranging from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ to Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jane Campion’s The Piano and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Keitel is best-known for tough-guy roles, but has but also been deeply affecting as “awakened” or love-obsessed characters, most notably in The Piano, in which he played an illiterate New Zealander who becomes deeply attached to and transformed by a mute musician in a loveless and oppressive marriage. In 2002, at the 24th Moscow International Film Festival, Keitel received the Stanislavsky Award for his acting achievements. To see him in some of his movie scenes, look below.

“I don’t think anybody loses their powers as they get older. As long as you’re involved and creative and interested, then you can’t lose it. That’s how you keep being surprised. Old age is infused with youthful things.” --Harvey Keitel

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.