Kiwis reveal their up close and personal encounters with celebrities. Today Anne Gibson reminisces on spotting Harvey Keitel in a crowd.

The now-famous film star appeared to be standing alone when I met him in the early 1990s in Auckland.

"That's Harvey Keitel," said my observant husband, Nevil, pointing out the small figure in the big crowd.

An outdoor opera event had drawn the famous American actor and producer to the same venue as us.

I was surprised.


What had brought him to New Zealand, we both wondered?

It was only later, around 1993 when Jane Campion's The Piano with Sam Neill, Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin was released, that we realised why he was here and what he was doing, some of it at an Auckland west coast beach, some of it naked (unusual for an American film star).

The Piano won three Academy Awards in 1994 and was nominated eight times.

But back then, we had no idea how the film he was making here would become such a huge success.

Seeing him standing nearby in that Auckland concert crowd, I decided to do the unthinkable.

"You're Harvey Keitel," I said stating the clearly obvious, approaching him with my hand out.

He agreed, shaking it, us both smiling.

I reeled off a series of films I knew he had starred in.

He looked at me.

"Yes," he said hardly pausing and speaking softly, without much ego, addressing the facts in the same tone. "I've also been in ... " and he reeled off a much longer series of films, smiling all the time.

There was a pause.

"What are you here to do?" I asked him. He then explained in broad terms why he was in New Zealand.

"Well it's very nice to meet you," I said and we went our separate ways in the crowd.

Unfortunately there isn't a photograph. This was well before the age of cellphone selfies.

But I hope the famous star remembers me as fondly as I do him (irony, self-deprecatory emoji).

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