Hollywood tough guy Harvel Keitel says he’s far better giving soul-baring performances in movies than getting too personal with reporters to promote them.
He can’t even fake it. “I love everybody seeing it (a movie) and experiencing it. But do I like selling it? No,” the Taxi Driver and Pulp Fiction star told The Hollywood Reporter while presenting his latest film, Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth, to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Friday.
Keitel said he enjoys talking about other people’s films, just not his own, even though investors and fans demand it. “Sometimes there’s a personal limit to what you can talk about and how you talk about it,” he insisted.
Youth, Sorrentino’s second English-language feature that stars Keitel and Michael Caine as two aging artist friends clashing over how to wind up their creative careers, bowed at Cannes and is set for an upcoming domestic release and awards season push by Fox Searchlight.
Keitel said Youth and Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty and another Oscar winner he starred in, Jane Campion‘s The Piano, are arthouse films not easily distilled down to pat answers for press junkets. “There’s many other films I feel the same about … They’re so personal and so difficult to talk about. If they weren’t difficult to talk about, maybe they wouldn’t have made the films,” he added.
Later, during the master class held at the Thermal Hotel, Keitel appeared to reach his “personal limit” after a long volley of questions aimed at the Hollywood legend. “What do you want me to do, sit here and say nice things about myself?” he said with his signature menacing smile.
Keitel, having played Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs, The Wolf in Pulp Fiction and Jodie Foster’s pimp in Taxi Driver, also balked when asked to name his favorite bad guy role, and answered instead: “I always like to say I’ve never played a bad guy, because every bad guy thinks they’re a good guy.”
He also admitted to wanting to one day direct his own movie, but being too busy over a long acting career to do so. “I just never got around to (directing) because I was busy just trying to stay alive in the world I’m in. But when you’re lucky enough to get the work I got, and worked in theater, you learn that part of it is being able to direct yourself,” he told the master class.
And Keitel, who has worked with first-time directors like Robert De Niro and Quentin Tarantino, insisted indie films needed support, however difficult raising finance outside the Hollywood studio system for them remained. “Without independent films, there would be no Hollywood,” he said.
“I think independent film is so important, because there’s stories coming from young people and their hearts and minds and blood and bones,” he added.