Harvey Keitel says joining Marines taught him 'what sacrifice was really like'

The 82-year-old Oscar nominee enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956. “When I joined the Marines, I was 17 years old, that that was a [life] changer,” he told Fox News while promoting his new movie, “Lansky.”

Keitel served between 1956 and 1959, deploying to Lebanon.

“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 said. 

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In “Lansky,” Keitel plays real-life American crime underworld kingpin Meyer Lansky. The film was written and directed by Eytan Rockaway.

Harvey Keitel jonied the Marines when he was a teenager. 

Harvey Keitel jonied the Marines when he was a teenager.  (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

It wasn’t hard for Keitel to get into Lansky’s mindset, he said. Lansky immigrated to America in the early 1900s with his Polish-Jewish family and settled in New York City. 

Keitel’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania and Poland who also landed in New York. 

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“I come from a family of immigrants,” he reflected. “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.”

In fact, his mother and father ran a luncheonette and his father also worked as a milliner.

Like his parents, Keitel isn’t afraid of long hours on a movie set or working hard to develop a project. He’s not letting age dictate his future career choices. 

“[I have] many more [projects in the works],” he revealed. “I’ll let the divine decide when I retire.”

“Lansky” is currently available on demand and in select theaters. 

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