LANSKY: Harvey Keitel’s Own Immigrant Experience Made Role As Notorious Crime Boss Meyer Lanksy Relatable (Interview With Harvey Keitel and Writer/Director Eytan Rockaway)


Interview by Paul Salfen

Paul Salfen talks to Harvey Keitel and Writer/Director Eytan Rockaway about the film LANSKY, in which Keitel plays the complex man who formed the largest crime syndicate in American History.

SYNOPSIS: David Stone (Sam Worthington), a renowned but down on his luck writer, has the opportunity of a lifetime when he receives a surprise call from Meyer Lansky (Academy Award nominee Harvey Keitel). For decades, authorities have been trying to locate Lansky’s alleged nine figure fortun and this is their last chance to capture the aging gangster before he dies. With the FBI close behind, the Godfather of organized crime reveals the untold truth about his life as the notorious boss of Murder Inc. and the National Crime Syndicate.



Growing up with a father who was an historian with expertise in the history of crime and the underworld, I was always intrigued by the adventurous and dangerous lives of gangsters. 

That dark and elusive underworld, with its own rules and codes of conduct operating in the shadows of civilized society, was fascinating. As a young boy, it sounded more like a fantasy world rather than historical reality. 

What fascinated me the most about that world was its characters. They reminded me of the characters in Greek and Norse mythology who had the capacity and the will to be forces of evil inflicting tremendous harm and chaos around them, while at the same time they could be forces of good, virtue and judgment. 

I studied the criminals and gangsters who lacked empathy and emotion from a young age to the ones who lost it along the way. I observed the stories of those thrown into the life of crime and the ones who willingly chose that path. But there was a small group of gangsters that intrigued me the most. These were the ones who reached the height of power, and their complexity transcended the normal boundaries of good and evil. 

Meyer Lansky was the epitome of that group. And my father had the opportunity to interview him just before he died. Meyer was a husband, father, friend, killer, genius, criminal, patriot and the founder of the largest crime organization in American history. To fully understand and depict this complicated man, this film portrays various aspects of his life while moving back and forth from his past to his present as an old man, revisiting key moments of his life. 

Life is a complex and humbling experience for all of us. Often there is no good or bad, black or white, but a thin grey line that the separates the two. Lansky is one of those people who constantly lived on this thin grey line. He is both the protagonist and antagonist of this story. 

This film is not about loving or hating this man, it is about understanding him. 

– Eytan Rockaway


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