First we get Harvey Keitel — then we take Brooklyn.
Nightclub-owner-turned-director Danny A. Abeckaser had no trouble generating hype for his directorial debut “First We Take Brooklyn.” But getting a legendary actor on board required his literally acting out every scene from the film for the 78-year-old “Bad Lieutenant” star.
“I had to play out the movie for him — about an hour and a half — I stood in front of him and his wife scene by scene,” said Abeckaser, who was an owner in popular downtown nightclubs including Marquee and Avenue. “I went to his office and acted out the whole movie.”
Abeckaser said he met Keitel in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival where he was promoting a film he’d produced called “Holy Rollers,” which starred Keitel’s daughter Stella. Keitel said to Abeckaser, “we ought to do something sometime,” which Abeckaser didn’t take literally.
“I thought he was just being nice and supportive so I said sure, okay,” according to Abeckaser. When the 44-year-old filmmaker decided to direct “First We Take Brooklyn,” friends suggested he reach out to Keitel, so he did. Keitel’s wife, Daphna Kastner, took the call and invited him to come by.
“We had a Hebrew connection,” he said.
Selling Keitel on his gangster film was one thing. Paying him was another.
“We could not afford his regular rate, we said we can give you this much of the budget, he said fine,” according to Abeckaser, who didn’t tell us what the amount wound up being.
“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “He didn’t do it for the money.”
Keitel and Abeckaser will be reunited soon at the wrap party for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” where Abeckaser, who also acts, landed a small role that he’ll film Monday. Keitel, along with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, is one of the film’s stars.
“I’m going to give him a big hug!” said Abeckaser. “First We Take Brooklyn” opened Feb. 8 at UA Sheepshead Bay Stadium in Brooklyn.
Helping rookie directors get their start is nothing new to Keitel. In 1992, he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s first feature-length film “Reservoir Dogs.”
With Brian Niemietz