Veteran star Harvey Keitel has been in Malta recently, starring as a British army officer in Just Noise which is being sold at the AFM by Electric Entertainment.
The film, scripted by Jean-Pierre Magro and directed by Davide Ferrario, tells the little-known story of how Maltese citizens fought for their independence against the British Crown in 1919. Maltese people from all walks of life united to lead an uprising against the British imperial forces.
Keitel admits he didn’t know anything about the Maltese revolution before he embarked on the project, in which he co-stars alongside Malcolm McDowell. “But I was very impressed with the passion of Jean-Pierre’s words,” he said of Magro’s screenplay. “I look upon his writing as an epic poem of the revolution.”
Keitel accepted the role in Just Noise fresh from his appearance in Martin Scorsese’s Netflix-backed gangster epic The Irishman. The actor was last directed by Scorsese in 1988’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, with The Irishman his sixth time acting in one of the director’s features – including their first collaboration 52 years ago on 1967’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door.
Keitel says that working with Scorsese was the same as ever. “Our approach was no different to that on any of the other films we’ve done together,” Keitel said of playing Philadelphia mob boss Angelo Bruno in The Irishman. “Marty asked me to do the part, I liked the writing and I showed up.”
Keitel was far keener to reminisce about Scottish-made 1988 feature Down Where The Buffalo Go and his collaboration with its larger-than-life writer, the Greenock-born former shipyard worker Peter McDougall. Keitel called McDougall’s screenplay “one of the favourite scripts I’ve ever read by one of my favourite writers”.
In the film, Keitel plays a US marine at the Holy Loch nuclear submarine base. Shown originally on BBC Scotland, the film has been little seen since its original broadcast but Keitel rates it with his very finest work and says it is ripe for rediscovery. “It has been underrated in my humble opinion,” he says.
“If you see him [McDougall], would you go and grip him by his coat and tell him I am waiting for his next project – I am waiting for our next project. After you say that to him, I advise you to duck,” the actor said of the Scottish hard-man dramatist known for his combustible temper. “Peter was a passionate, enthusiastic, dynamite of a man.”
Keitel’s admiration for McDougall – whose other projects include Just Another Saturday with Billy Connolly and Just A Boy’s Game starring Frankie Miller – was sealed when they were on a ferry together on a freezing day on the River Clyde. While everyone else was shivering inside, McDougall was on deck in his shirt sleeves.
“I said to myself, look at him, showing off what a tough Scottish man he is – he’ll be in in a minute. But as we were crossing the Clyde and had reached the halfway point, he had still not come in. I angrily opened the door, walked out of the deck and said, ’Come on Peter, aren’t you freezing out here?’ And he said, ‘No, Harvey, the rage keeps me warm.’ I smiled and went inside. And he stayed outside.”