Harvey Keitel has made a career out of nasty dramas in his movies, but now real-life unpleasantness is dogging the Bad Lieutenant star.

Keitel, 56, returned to court Tuesday in another effort to wrest custody of his 12-year-old daughter, Stella, from the girl's mother, his ex- Lorraine Bracco. In more amicable days, Keitel and Bracco shared time onscreen (1987's The Pick-Up Artist) and off, but the couple have been embroiled in a fierce battle over their child since their split.

Now, Bracco, an Oscar nominee for Goodfellas, is married to actor-activist Edward James Olmos, himself an Oscar nominee for Stand and Deliver. Last year, the 40-year-old actress was awarded sole custody of Stella by a Rockland County, New York, family-court judge, who felt Keitel's "destructive conduct" created the wrong kind of atmosphere for the girl, according to the New York Daily News.

(No word on how the judge felt about Stella's appearance in her dad's most notoriously explicit movie, The Bad Lieutenant, or her role as the daughter of mobster parents, played by Bracco and Ray Liotta, in Martin Scorsese's violent Goodfellas.)

The judge also ruled that Olmos, 50, should undergo counseling and never be allowed to be alone with Stella. The latter stemmed from Keitel's unsubstantiated charges that Olmos had previously sexually abused a 14-year-old girl, the News reported.

Keitel also claimed it was unsafe for Stella to live with Bracco and her husband, who have six children between them, because of death threats Olmos had received from Mexican mobsters unhappy with his portrayal of a gang leader in American Me. The judge said no dice, ruling the threats occurred too long ago to still be a problem.

Now the actor is trying yet another approach. The appeal launched today is built on points of law (alleged judicial errors) rather than salacious accusations against Olmos or Bracco.

For their part, Olmos and Bracco claim Keitel is a jilted lover bent on revenge. They cite a letter written to Disney honcho Michael Eisner (whose studio was making a movie starring Olmos), in which Keitel badmouthed Olmos in an attempt to torpedo his career.

Meanwhile, maybe to shake the "destructive" rap, the actor's patented tough-guy act has gotten a makeover for his latest role. The kinder, gentler Keitel can currently be seen playing magician Harry Houdini in the family flick Fairy Tale: A True Story.

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