Harvey Keitel has worked with some great directors during his half-century in the entertainment business, but Stephen Colbert noted the iconic actor’s career-long penchant for working with promising first-timers. As the two sat down for Wednesday’s Late Show (with Keitel resplendent in an all-black suit and open toed sandals, because New York is sweltering, and he’s Harvey Keitel), Colbert ran down the neophyte directors fortunate enough to have Keitel on set for their first films. Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino—maybe you’ve heard of them? As Keitel told Colbert, his knack for spotting potential in a director is akin to love at first sight, explaining of his attraction to these then-untested filmmakers, “There’s something that takes place between you and that girl.” (Keitel also added Jane Campion to Colbert’s list, even though, technically, The Piano was the New Zealand director’s third feature. What are you going to do, argue with Harvey Keitel?)
Sticking with love at first sight, Keitel also regaled Colbert with the long and winding (and entertaining) tale of how he and wife of 20 years, actor and director Daphna Kastner, finally wound up together. Patiently spinning his tale for the rapt Colbert, the 82-year-old actor explained how, while it may have been something like love at first sight for him, it took Kastner a bit longer to decide. Like, 17 years longer, as the film icon (currently onscreen as yet another in his long line of movie mobsters in second-time director Eytan Rockaway’s Lansky) regaled the Late Show audience with the story of how his initial attempts to court Kastner in some of the most romantic and expensive restaurants of Rome met with rejection. But not before the literally starving actress had stuffed herself a few times on the visiting Keitel’s lira. “What is it about me?,” Keitel laughed, also sharing the time that similarly hungry Reservoir Dogs director Tarantino kept raiding Keitel’s refrigerator under the guise of pre-production meetings at Keitel’s house.
In the end, and perhaps inevitably, it was Keitel’s pal Robert De Niro who was instrumental (if accidentally so) in bringing the couple together. As Keitel explained, it was only because a few of his (also presumably hungry) Hollywood friends begged Keitel to get them into a party for De Niro that he spotted Kastner once more across that crowded room, and the rest is history. (As to why Keitel had to be dragged kicking and grumbling to a party for Robert De Niro, who knows? Maybe the two legendary screen partners see enough of each other on set at this point.) With Keitel characteristically underplaying by telling Colbert he’s not really “a woo-woo guy,” The Irishman star could only credit good fortune and his good friend De Niro for his 20 years of wedded bliss, noting happily that the couple’s son—named Roman, naturally—was eventually born on De Niro’s August 17 birthday. Just one of those kind of stories.