We are honored to present our latest conversation in our Actor’s Spotlight series. With this episode, Frank and Raymond Benson have a conversation with poet and actor Harry Northup who is living film history. Harry was featured in Martin Scorsese’s first six films WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR, BOXCAR BERTHA, MEAN STREETS, ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, TAXI DRIVER, and NEW YORK NEW YORK. Harry was also a frequent collaborator with maverick filmmakers Jonathan Demme and Jonathan Kaplan. Harry has been featured in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, TOM HORN, and OVER THE EDGE amongst many others. Harry recounts his very rich filmography, along with stories of working with actors Harvey Keitel, Richard Farnsworth, Billy Green Bush, Peter Boyle, and Steve McQueen.
The films of Paul Kyriazi hold a special place in my cinema-viewing adventures throughout the years. I, naturally, encountered them during the heady days of the era of VHS – I still have my copies in that format of Paul’s work. Then, not unlike Terrence Malick, Paul disappeared, and I lamented his absence having come to admire his film-making style and diversity.
So, rejoice I did, when I learned that he had returned to the director’s chair. Eagerly I sat down to watch Forbidden Power – and I was not disappointed. With his new film, Paul returns with his unique voice, his visual dexterity and his great command of unfolding an exciting thriller that doesn’t release its grip on you till it’s time to fade to black.
Fascinated by his study in the field of personal empowerment, Paul takes us on a journey where the achieving of super-human abilities is contracted via sexual intercourse. The character at the center of the story is a mysterious and provocative woman – who seemingly hypnotizes her partners with a type of mystical persuasion. The character we follow, after his eerie yet passion-fueled encounter with the female antagonist, wakes to find her vanished, but also having left behind for him a gift of sorts.
In this superhero-movie-saturated age we find ourselves, it was refreshing to witness a different spin on the getting of super-powers. Our hero, just like in any superhero origin story, has a delightful time discovering the extent of his new-found abilities. But, as it is with the coming of great power, there comes along with it, great responsibility.
Thus we go along on the adventure, and soon discover that plot is deeper than one might first imagine. I’ve no intention of spoiling it for you here, because I want you to see the movie. What it will say is – this is well crafted film-making that you can definitely become immersed in.
It was a true honor for this fan, not only to talk to Paul, but also to two of the film’s stars – the stunning and talented Nazanin Nuri and the man, the legend, Harry Mok (another exceptional, multi-talented performer whom I too, like Paul, encountered first in the heyday of home video).
I encourage you to seek out Forbidden Power, if you are a fan of Kyriazi cinema or not. I promise you, you will not be disappointed…
At age 8, I see The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on Disneyland TV and decided to become a movie director. Age 16, I start filming 20 minute action stories using my father’s 8mm camera. Age 18, my father bought me a used Bolex camera. I film a 30 min color action movie titled Trapped and it wins the Berkeley Film Festival. I start taking karate to be like James Bond. My Sensei introduces me to samurai movies. Seeing that action with great film techniques of the Japanese directors, moves me into martial arts movies, even before the TV show Kung Fu. I transferred to San Francisco State University making more 20 minute karate stories and placing 3rd in the next Berkeley Film Festival. I graduate with a BA in film. I join the Air Force movie department and film space launches for NASA. I take leave to film my first feature Drawn Swords in 35mm black & white Techniscope. It’s about 3 samurai going to England to enter a fencing tournament. I use all my cash and credit cards, loans, and refinancing my car. I get out of the Air Force and return to San Francisco unable to sell my movie. I promise myself if I get another break I will make a color movie that is so commercial the distributors will have to buy it. I meet karate tournament fighter Ron Marchini who has me re-edit and sell his Philippine produced movie Murder in the Orient. Ron then hired me to write and direct Death Machines. To be commercial, we come up with a story of 3 karate killers (white, black, Asian) to cover all markets. Then we add a cop/gangster plot, big fight scenes in a karate dojo, bar, and police station, and we actually blew up a piper cub airplane. The completed movie is immediately picked up by Crown International Pictures with big advertising. It opened in 50 theaters in LA making it a #14 top grosser. However, I still can’t raise the money to produce my own movie, so I direct a sequence for Sesame Street. I pick up a copy of The Million Dollar Secret Hidden in Your Mind by Anthony Norvel. I take his classes for three months in LA, then return to the San Francisco. In 10 days I raise the money to produce and direct Weapons of Death. The panavision film plays all over the USA breaking a house record in a New York theater. I next produce and direct Ninja Busters. This was followed by the cops and gangsters story One Way Out. Next came writing and directing Omega Cop starring: Adam ‘Batman’ West, Troy Donahue, and Stuart Whitman. An actress from Weapons of Death hires me to produce a travelogue in Phuket, Thailand, Thailand Adventure proving you never know what contact will end up getting you movie work. I write two novels in hopes of getting them produced as movies. When many people ask me “How do you survive as a freelance?” I write How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle. In 2003, I produce In the West – a 90 minute travel production for Japan. Appearance by Pat Morita. In 2005, I produce my novel Rock Star Rising as an audio-book narrated by Rod Taylor, performed by Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Robert Culp, James Darren, and Kevin McCarthy. It has full effects and music, making it an “audio movie” of sorts. In 2006, I direct the largest production in audio-book history, McKnight’s Memory. Narrated by Frank Sinatra Jr, it stars Robert Culp, Nancy Kwan, Don Stroud, Henry Silva, Alan Young, David Hedison, and Edd Kookie Byrnes. In 2007, I Direct Edd Byrnes’ My Casino Caper audio-book. It’s Edd’s memoir of being stalked for his 3 million dollar Las Vegas win. With Alan Young, Henry Silva, and David Hedison playing themselves, recreating the incident that happened in 1977. Michael Callen plays the part of criminal that stalked Edd. In 2008, I direct Barbara Leigh’s The King, McQueen, and the Love Machine audio-book. Her memoir of being a top model involved with Elvis, Steve McQueen and MGM president Jim Aubrey. Joe Esposito introduces it and plays himself in the dramatizations. In 2012, I update & expand the James Bond Lifestyle on Kindle, Nook, iTunes & Kobo. In 2013, I write & produce – 3 Wild Thrillers – Three fiction stories on Kindle that includes the audio-book. In 2014, I produce The Mexican Swimmer, a 3 hour audio-book performed by Julian Scott Urena. I also write Wicked Players, a story of gambling and survival in wild Las Vegas
I always imagined moving to New York City, before even really knowing what that meant. As a child, I spoke gibberish, pretending to be American, and constantly begged my family to travel to New York. Somehow, without having ever seen any of it in person, I was fascinated by the skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty, and the opportunity New York City had to offer. For as long as I can remember, I had this recurring dream, where I was swimming for so long, exhausted and not sure where I was going, until finally I’d look up and realize I’d swam all the way to New York City. I’d wake up screaming, “I made it! I made it!” I finally left everything in Switzerland behind and made my way to US as an Au Pair. In 2012, with just two suitcases, I moved to San Francisco and lived with a host family. After a year in the states, I began to feel comfortable communicating and expressing myself in English. I extended my job for another year and moved to Long Island, New York. After working for two years as an Au Pair, I was ready to pursue my dream. I moved to New York City and signed up for ESL classes to master my English. As fate would have it, I stumbled upon The William Esper Studio, an acting school that changed my life forever. I was honored to be accepted in Bill Esper’s acting class and enrolled in the two year full-time program. As cheesy as it sounds, acting found me! As I studied the art and spent time learning the craft in my classes, I increasingly realized that my entire journey led me to what I really love. Acting is my calling and all I want to do in my life. At the end of my first year of acting school, I spent the summer of 2016 in Switzerland. I wrote and starred in my first short film entitled “Where Am I”. The film was very well received at the Wellington Film Festival with an honorable mention as it won the “Best Narration” category. I graduated from The William Esper Studio in summer 2017 and was right away cast as the lead – playing Veronica Hawthorn – in Paul Kyriazi’s feature film “Forbidden Power”. After we were done shooting “Forbidden Power” in Seattle I traveled to Utah to film an experimental short film that I wrote, produced and starred in. That untitled short film is in the editing phase and expected to be released in 2018
Harry Mok’s career in the entertainment industry is attributed to his well-known expertise in the martial arts field. His career began as an actor and stuntman, performing and or starring in such films as Rambo II, Uncommon Valor, TC 2000, Talons of the Eagle, Femme Fontaine, For Life or Death, College Kickboxers, The Vineyard, Tiger Claws II, Ninja Busters, and more. In 1987, Harry produced and wrote his first feature film, The Vineyard, which was released by New World Pictures. Shortly after, he began producing, creating, and designing action games for Atari/Time Warner Interactive. During this period, Harry invented a new filming technology, a 180 degree five camera blue/green screen system that would revolutionize digitization of 2D characters. He filed a patent for this technology. In August of 2005 Harry was honored with induction into the prestigious GSKA Black Belt Hall of Fame. In January 2007, he was inducted into the World Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame. He is currently based in Northern California. He is one of the founders of 10+ Entertainment and is currently involved with producing a new reality show, New Hollywood Stars.
Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He grew up with a love of films and writing. I suppose this is a common thread among those of us who seek to express ourselves through these mediums. Hoping against hope that it will be either one or the other that strikes first – one or the other that shall propel us out of obscurity and into the stratosphere in which we are allowed to create for a living.
It was horror films (the Video Nasties), but also the bombastic, high concept and blockbuster works of the 80’s that further fueled the young Barker to carry on his quest. Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese, but also Romero and Raimi fed him with images and blasted on the big screen the seemingly endless possibilities which lay in wait, destined to be unearthed by the daring dreamer.
Like all those that had come before, young Barker cut his teeth making short films and writing books and short stories – at times with friends. Then the time came – the time which calls to the fledgling auteurs and beckons them into the fray – time to put all accumulated knowledge to the test, and make that first film.
Thus A Reckoning was born. But through no fault of his own, young Barker was forced to sit by and see his film languish in obscurity. So, he took up the pen, and began to tell his stories on the printed page. Soon, he produced two fine works (see pictured above) and interest from the film industry power brokers soon came knocking.
Andrew is an eclectic storyteller whose visions are at once personal and profound. To talk to him about his journey, his influences and aspirations was a thrill. He is definitely a talent to watch, and, I for one, will be watching with great anticipation as to where his journey will take him next.
Harvey Keitel is one of cinema’s most valued actors. His brand: tough alpha male, career criminal, and the all-around bad motherfucker. His filmography is unique; he has been a mainstay in the works of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, James Toback, Abel Ferrara, and most recently Wes Anderson. While his hallmark is the tough guy, he’s been able to transform that archetype into colorful dimensional characters that only he could have portrayed on film. Whether he’s in a crime film, a big budget opus, or an incredibly small independent film, Keitel is always on the mark and he is always fascinating to watch.
ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE 1974 Dir. Martin Scorsese
In his third collaboration with his friend Martin Scorsese, Keitel gives a dual layer performance. He starts out being the affable and charming suitor of Ellen Burstyn’s Alice – until he isn’t. He’s the all too real sociopath that is able to cover his anger and inner frustration with his charm. Keitel is frightening in this film, the way he’s able to camouflage the character’s actual motivations and drive is unique to the range he has as an actor.
BAD LIEUTENANT 1992 Dir. Abel Ferrara
There has never been a performance like Keitel’s turn in BAD LIEUTENANT. It is as pulverizing as it is soul bearing. He removes the audience from their comfort zone, and takes them into the heart of darkness, watching a man spiral out of control. He’s a killer, a gambler, a junkie, a cop – yet he accidentally finds a reason to live through redemption. While the Bad Lieutenant is incredibly vile, the subtle vulnerability that Keitel graces makes this performance all that more tragic. Aside from being one of Keitel’s finest performances, this remains one of the best performances in cinema history.
DANGEROUS GAME 1993 Dir. Abel Ferrara
Off the heels of BAD LIEUTENANT, the seminal trio of Abel Ferrara, Harvey Keitel, and cinematographer Ken Kelsch embarked on one of the most daring and transgressive pseudo autobiographical films, DANGEROUS GAME. Like Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ or Felini’s 8 ½ Abel Ferrara uses his actor as a vessel to tell his own story on film. Keitel completely shakes his gangster vibe but leaves his darkness and intensity completely intact to play filmmaker Eddie Israel in a movie within a movie.
FINDING GRACELAND 1998 Dir. David Winkler
In the vastly underseen FINDING GRACELAND, Keitel plays a quietly broken drifter who claims to be Elvis Presley. While on the road to Graceland, he gives his most quietly heartfelt performance with an incredible amount of soul and reach. We’ve seen characters like this before in cinema, but seeing Keitel playing a man claiming to be Elvis, along with singing SUSPICIOUS MINDS, is a one of a kind performance. Yes. Harvey Keitel sings Elvis. That’s worth watching it on its own.
FINGERS 1978 Dir. James Toback
Somewhere there needs to be a theatre showing a double bill of FIVE EASY PIECES and FINGERS. This is a key performance from Keitel, where he plays the gangster and the intellectual. He’s a brutal enforcer for his father, yet doubles as a piano prodigy. Both sides of himself have one thing in common: sexual addiction. FINGERS is Toback’s finest hour as a filmmaker, and is yet another performance of Keitel’s that is chalked up in the underseen category.
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST 1988 Dir. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s most seminal film, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is controversial and monumental for a variety of reasons. One of the most enamoring aspects is Keitel’s reinvention of Judas. He’s an insurgent warrior, he’s the loyal follower, and then he becomes the voice of reason while Jesus is being guided through his final temptation. Keitel’s turn earned him a Razzie nomination, and that is completely off base. Keitel is brutish and forceful; purposely directed to speak with an overt Brooklyn accent with a new take on the Biblical character.
MEAN STREETS 1973 Dir. Martin Scorsese
MEAN STREETS is often mentioned as the film that birthed the brilliant collaboration of Scorsese and De Niro, but the film is much more than that. Keitel takes the lead, as the morally conflicted Charlie who is set to take over for his gangster Uncle, yet having to constantly juggle his wild card best friend Johnny Boy (brilliantly played by De Niro). De Niro has the flashy role, but Keitel is the foundation of the film. He’s Scorsese’s alter ego; he is struggling with his faith, his family, and his identity. Keitel gives an incredibly soft and vulnerable performance as a man who is stuck in his own quagmire, having no way out.
RESERVOIR DOGS 1992 Dir. Quentin Tarantino
This is the performance where everything Keitel has done before comes to a perfect culmination. There isn’t an actor who has delivered Tarantino’s dialogue with as much weight as Keitel. Keitel walks Tarantino’s walk, and in particular talks his talk. There is a Shakespearean quality to Keitel’s performance in this film. From the start of the film, we know he’s heading for impending doom, and he does it all with gravitas and honor.
TAXI DRIVER 1976 Dir. Martin Scorsese
Originally, Scorsese wanted Keitel to play the campaign staffer Tom (the role Albert Brooks knocks out of the park), but instead Keitel wanted to play the pimp who had only a few lines of dialogue in the original screenplay. Keitel transforms into a smooth and funny character, yet in his private encounter with Iris (Jodie Foster) we see what a master of manipulation and control he is in a creepy and quiet way.
SMOKE 1995 Dir. Wayne Wang
SMOKE is another one of those quietly underseen gems of independent cinema. In a very low key way, we see Keitel in a new light. He’s himself, in a certain regard, a brash New Yorker who smokes, runs a tobacco shop, yet he has an undying pension for art. In this film’s case, he’s a photographer, who has taken the same photograph in the same intersection every day for the past twenty years. This is a very touching film, and Keitel gives one of his sweetest performances.
YOUTH 2015 Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
In a character that is fusion of Charles Bukowski and John Cassavetes, Keitel plays writer/director Mick Boyle who is on his annual holiday in the Swiss Alps with his best friend, Michael Caine. This was a role that Keitel was born to play. He’s the artist that is overflowing with creativity and inner torment. He’s being torn apart by his own emotions and ego, and he gives is a bittersweet showboat of a performance of what it is truly like to be an artist.
Honorable mentions: BAD TIMING, BLUE COLLAR, BUGSY, CITY OF INDUSTRY, COP LAND, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, THE PIANO