Harvey Keitel was born on May 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Miriam and Harry Keitel, Jewish immigrants from Romania and Poland, respectively. His parents owned and ran a luncheonette and his father also worked as a hat maker.
Harvey grew up in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, with his sister and brother. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School and Alexander Hamilton Vocational School, but dropped out to join the Marines in 1956. While serving with 2nd Marine Division as a rifleman fire team leader, his service took him to Lebanon, during Operation Blue Bat.
Harvey’s time in the Marines made a huge influence on his life and helped shape many of his perspectives. During training at night combat school, he mentioned being afraid of the dark. An instructor told him that everyone is afraid of the dark because people are afraid of the unknown, and he would teach him how to handle it. Harvey took the lesson to heart and extended it to other areas of his life over the years.
After his discharge he returned to New York and worked as a court stenographer for several years and was able to support himself before beginning his acting career when he joined the New York’s Actors Studio. His persistence paid off, and he began landing roles in live theater.
Harvey’s film career now has 150 credits as an actor, and five as a producer, spanning from 1966 – present day, he is still active in Hollywood and working on several projects, with his latest films including “Chosen“, “The Ridiculous 6“, and “The Comedian.” He credits time serving the Marine Corps for his success and professionalism within the film industry.
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