‘Lansky’: Why Harvey Keitel Says Joining Marines Taught Him the True Meaning of Sacrifice

by Josh Lanier

Harvey Keitel, who is playing real-world crime lord Myer Lansky in the upcoming film Lansky, opened up about his time as a U.S. Marine.

Keitel, who’s starred in Taxi Driver and Pulp Fiction, joined the Corps when he was 17. The Brooklyn-born actor said the Marines taught him a lot about what it means to endure.

“It taught me how to endure, taught me how to endure hardships, it taught me what real camaraderie was like. It taught me what sacrifice was really like and what loyalty was,” he told Fox News

He told Military.com that he wanted to learn to live with the darkness, and learn to accept it.

“That is probably the most important philosophical question to ask oneself. What is the darkness? How do I learn to live with it? I heard that when I was 17 years old, and I never forgot that he said it. And it appealed to me. I wanted to learn to live with the darkness.”

His search took him to Lebanon during Operation Blue Bat in 1956-1959. When he returned home, he took up acting. He studied under legendary acting teacher Stella Adler and happened across an NYU student director looking for actors. That turned out to be Martin Scorsese trying to fill roles for his first film “Who’s That Knocking at My Door.”

The two were fast friends, and Keitel became one of Scorsese’s go-to actors.

Harvey Keitel: Once a Marine Always a Marine

Harvey Keitel is a first-generation American. His parents worked hard and to provide for him, and that hardscrabble life prepared him for the Marines, he said. He learned to be resourceful at a young age and the Marines taught him how to utilize those skills.

“I come from a family of immigrants,” he also told Fox News. “My mother and father immigrated. I’m a first-generation American, so I had that to work from. My parents didn’t have an education, and they had to make a living the best they could. And they did. They did a lot of things to make a living.”

Keitel says he meets young Marines often, and while they may not know each other’s experience, they know each other because they were shaped by the Corps.

“You can pretty much tell the people who do understand. They don’t understand our experience, but they understand their own, which might have a parallel place. You’re a Marine. I am [a Marine]. Our motto is Semper Fidelis. That says it all. Always faithful. That’s something you’re not going to find often in life,” he told MovieMaker magazine.

Keitel stars in Lansky. The IMDB description says: “An aging Meyer Lansky is investigated one last time by the Feds who suspect he has stashed away millions of dollars over half a century, the retired gangster spins a dizzying tale, revealing the untold truth about his life as the notorious boss of Murder Inc. and the National Crime Syndicate.”