Harvey Keitel

  1. Robert  De  Niro,  Mean  Streets, 1973.      Booked  as  the continually erupting Johnny Boy, Keitel told De Niro  he would be better  in  that  role  – and  took over the lead and lost the contest. Bob walked away with the first Scorsese classic.
  2. Burt Young, Rocky, 1976..
  3. Albert  Brooks, Taxi Driver, 1976.      Given the part of a campaign worker, he requested the pimp – black and with only about five lines in Paul Schrader’s scenario.
  4. Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now, 1976.
  5. Ray Sharkey, Love and Money, 1981.    “I wanted Harvey for the lead,” recalled new auteur James Toback, about the 1977 star of his Fingers.  “But I was told:  No way. They would finance if I could get Ray Sharkey or Jeff Goldblum for the lead – but not Harvey Keitel So  I did it with Ray. And Ray was not up to to the part.”

  6. James Woods, Once Upon a Time in America, 1982.  
    After his epic about the West, Sergio Leone planned another on the East – based on The Hoods, “an autobiographical account” of New York Jewish gangster Harry Goldberg. He wrote it in Sing Sing prison as Harry Grey. Leone thought he resembled Edward G Robinson.  Harry probably agreed. He certainly used “a repertoire of cinematic citations, of gestures and words seen and heard thousands of times on the big screen…” But then, so did Leone with a 400 page script packed with echoes of Angels with Dirty Faces, Bullets or Ballots, Dead End, High Sierra, Little Cesar and White Heat. In October 1975, he even fancied the elderly James Cagney and Jean Gabin as the older Noodles and Max – the younger being Gérard Depardieu and Richard Dreyfuss. The   maestro claimed he interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles. Jack Nicholson  and Al Pacino passed on Noodles. In 1980, Tom Berenger and Paul Newman were also up for Noodles (young and old) with either John Belushi, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, John Malkovich or Jon Voight as Max, then Joe Pesci (he became Frankie, instead) and James Woods was Max. And Scott Tiler and Rusty Jacobs were the young Noodles and Max in the three hours-49 minutes unfurled at the ’84 Cannes festival… instead of Leone’s aim: two three-hour movies.

  7. Dennis Farina, Midnight Run, 1987.   A great buddy movie (better than the same director Martin Brest’s Beverly Hills Cop), has skip-tracer Robert De Niro (in top comedy form) and Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin on the run from the FBI andthe Vegas Mob, represented by Farina (a Chicago cop for 18 years before turning actor). His rivals for the gig were Alec Baldwin, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman.

  8. Jack Palance, City Slickers, 1991.     Facing 40, three Manhattan dudes book into a dude ranch and join a cattle drive and… a perfect comedy!  Billy Crystal stars and helped write it –  and immediately thought of Palance as Curly, the iron cowpuncher still in Shane mode. Even so it was also offered to Bronson who refused, said Billy, “in an unseemly way” – because Curly died. Next? Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Harvey Keitel. And Clint Eastwood (too pricey… but that would have really been something!) and two of his future co-stars, Gene Hackman and John Malkovich. Palance stole the movie and Oscarnight – winning a support award 38 years after his only nomination (for the Shane gunman). Keitel was among the other nhom8inbees  (for Busgy).  Palance celebrated with one-arm push-ups on  stage – at age 72. Bronson must have been livid.

  9. Sam Shepard, Thunderheart, 1991.  UK director Michael Apted’s first thriller was inspired by 57 unsolved murders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s as The Traditionals fought Tribal government goons… making Pine Ridge (pop: 1100) the Murder Capitol of the Nation. The only clichéin sight is the usual pairing of old cop-young cop (or FBI agents here), the rest was the usual Apted brilliance.  He shuffled eleven choices for the older agent, Frank “Cooch” Coutelle: Brian Cox, Robert De Niro, Scott Glenn, Dennis Hopper, Tommy Lee Jones (also up, at 45, for the younger Ray Levoi), Harvey Keitel, Stephen Lang, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Ron Perlman.  So where was Marlon Brando?  “He’s gone on record so many times about the current state of the Indians, I almost expected him to ring me,” Apted told me in Deauville, France.  “I asked him to play the head of the FBI – just one day’s work in Washington.  I thought it might appeal to him – as a cause.”  It did not.

  10. Dan Heyada, Clueless, 1994.  Keitel (too pricey) and Jerry Orbach  were considered for the wealthy lawyer father of Alicia Silverstone’s  teen queenin director Amy Heckerling’s Beverly Hills flip-side of her Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  “A smart and funny movie,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, ”and the characters are in on the joke.”One line was surely penned with Keitel in mind, as he tells some kid dating his daughter:“If anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you.” 

  11. Bernard Giraudeau, Les caprices d’un fleuve, France, 1995.    Only the French could make a drama called Unpredictable Nature of the River.For a wee while actor Giraudeau’s sixth outing as auteur was to be shot in English. Feelers were sent out to bothKeitel and William Hurt until, as he’d always planned since dicovering the story, Giraudeau directed himself as the governor of a French territory in Africa during slavery, circa 1785.
  12. Tony Curtis, Brittle Glory, 1996.      According to writer-director Stewart Schill, various stars had been keen on his script despite it then being called: The Continued Adventures of Reptile Man and His Faithful Sidekick Tadpole. Title was switched months after the result was unveiled in the 1996 Cannes festival market.
  13. Gérard Lanvin, Anna Oz, France, 1996.       The American was too expensive for Eric Rochant’s small film. Lanvin and his Anna, Charlotte Gainsbourg,  partnered anew for  Passionément, 1999.
  14. Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights, 1996.     Keitel, Albert Brooks, Bill Murray and director Sydney Pollack were offered the porno film-maker Jack Horner in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s exploration of the 70s porno biz as a family unit. Plus Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, who had been supporters of hardcore star Harry Reems during his 1977 legal hassles. Pollack regretted refusing the role and Reynolds regretted accepting it. He rowed with PTA, won the best reviews of his career, a Golden Globe and his one and only Oscar nomination.  Yet he still still fled PTA’s Magnolia, 1999.  Judging by his next  roles, no one really wanted him back.
  15. Sydney Pollack, Eyes Wide Shut, 1998.  Director  Pollack took the role when Harvey was dropped after a few scenes when, alledgedly, he took  more than 59 takes to deliver what it was he thought was wanted by director Stanley Kubrick. Before calling up Pollack, Kubrick had considered Woody Allen for the 14-minute scene with Cruise  – that took three weeks to shoot.  The filming took 400 days!
  16. John Ford Noonan, God Has A Rap Sheet, 2002.   Nine  guys are held overnight in a police holding cell – including a homeless man  who says he’s God.  The kind of God who pontificates: “The meaning of life is to keep it meaningful.”  He used to have better  writers.  Keitel seemed to agree… 
  17. Ray Liotta, Revolver, 2005.      The fact that Keitelfound little to interest him in a crime boss called Dorothy was, perhaps, the reason Liotta overplayed it out of the park. Guy Ritchie’s most wretched movie.
  18. Joe Mantegna, Criminal Minds, TV, 2009-2018.      Mandy Patinkin quit as head honcho of the FBI profilers over “creative differences.” So Keitel was somewhat foolish to insist on various perks including… creative control.  Also considered: Geena Davis and Michael Keaton. 
  19. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems, 2019.   People actually started talking Oscar for Sandler for the worst ever Al Pacino impression in Benny and Josh Safdie’s drama… with echoes of Anthony Newley scouring around for money in his star-making Sammy, TV, 1958, and the movie version, The World of Sammy Lee, 1962.  (Mickey Rooney did the US TVersion, Eddie, 1958) The brothers wanted a Jewish actor and first tried Sandler, who passed (too quickly), “pursued” Harvey Keitel, “considered” Sacha Baron Cohen and went “younger” with Jonah Hill. So now we know who to blame…




 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  19