Harvey Keitel to play Meyer Lansky in gangster biopic
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Harvey Keitel to play Meyer Lansky in gangster biopic

Veteran US actor headlines new movie focusing on latter-life of famous Jewish mobster

Actor Harvey Keitel attends the Museum of Modern Art Film Benefit tribute to Martin Scorsese, presented by Chanel, on November 19, 2018, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Actor Harvey Keitel attends the Museum of Modern Art Film Benefit tribute to Martin Scorsese, presented by Chanel, on November 19, 2018, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

CANNES, France — Veteran US actor Harvey Keitel is headlining a new biopic about Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, who was a close friend and contemporary of notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel, the distributors said Saturday.

Entitled “Lansky,” the film focuses on the latter part of his life when the now retired-boss of Murder Inc. was in his 70s and living anonymously in Florida’s Miami Beach, Voltage Pictures said.

When Lansky takes on a journalist to tell his story, played by “Avatar” actor Sam Worthington, the FBI use him as bait to entrap the underworld kingpin whom they suspect of stashing away millions.

The film is in pre-production with shooting due to start in August.

Meyer Lansky at a New York City police station, where he is being booked for vagrancy, 1958. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)

Keitel is known for playing hard-boiled tough guys, taking on roles in cult classics such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and “Pulp Fiction” (1994), but also starring in Jane Campion’s Oscar-winning “The Piano” (1993).

The picture is being directed by Eytan Rockaway, who wrote the script based on a story by Israeli director Ido Fluk and writer/producer Sharon Mashihi.

Their story was partially based on interviews with Lansky by the director’s father, history professor Robert Rockaway, for his 1993 book “But He Was Good to His Mother: The Lives and Crimes of Jewish Gangsters.”

“Eytan’s fierce talent and unparalleled access to the psyche of Meyer Lansky will elevate ‘Lansky’ to genre-best status,” said Voltage’s chief operating officer and president Jonathan Deckter, describing it as a “mind-blowing story.”

Born in 1902, Lansky moved to the United States with his parents at the age of nine and by his mid-teens, he was already running a gang with Siegel and went on to play a key role in liquor smuggling, gambling, and guns for hire.

With the FBI hot on his trail and fearing a grand jury summons and prosecution for tax fraud, he tried to flee to Israel in 1970 but after a year or so was deported back to the US.

He died of lung cancer in 1983 and was buried in Miami after an Orthodox Jewish ceremony.

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