"Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere, in bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere there's no escape from God's lonely man"
, Taxi Driver
Columbia Pictures/1976/R/114 Minutes
Taxi Driver is one of the best movies of all time, it was nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture in 1976, won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, and was listed as one of the 100 best films of all time by the American Film Institute.
Taxi Driver was written by Paul Schrader who was, at the time, transitioning from film criticism to film writing. Schrader had recently lost two serious relationships and was living mainly in his car except when his ex-girlfriend was out of town and he stayed alone in her apartment with no heat or electricity. Upon realizing that he hadn't talked to anyone in several weeks he came up with the taxi as a metaphor for a sort of male drifter loneliness. Schrader wrote the script in two drafts over a period of 10 days. Taxi Driver is dedicated to Bernard Herrmann who composed the score; Herrmann composed the score then conducted the first day of recording, the recording was completed the second day, Herrmann died that night in his hotel . Taxi Driver was directed by Martin Scorsese, it was his fourth film.
The film features Robert DeNiro who plays Travis Bickle, the protagonist, a New York City cabby who is a lonely insomniac who takes up driving a taxi in order to find something to do with his nights while he can't sleep. He is a racist character who hates everyone on the streets in New York. He writes to his parents throughout the movie about an invented girlfriend and how he is doing work for the government so they will not perceive him to be a loser.
Cybil Shephard plays Betsy who is a campaign worker for Palentine for president. Bickle sees her as a perfect angel amongst the scum. He attempts to court her which ends badly and contributes to Bickle's descent into psychosis.
Jodie Foster plays Iris, a 12 year old prostitute who attempts to get into Bickle's cab one night running from her pimp. Bickle decides that he needs to rescue her which leads to the final shootout scene.
Sport, played by Harvey Keitel, is Iris' pimp and lover. The character was originaly supposed to be a small part but Keitel took interest in Sport and developed him further. Sport was modeled after a pimp that Keitel had noticed in a doorway in his own neighborhood -- Hell's Kitchen.
Tom, one of Betsy's co-workers at the Palentine campaign headquarters, is played by Albert Brooks. Brooks had up to that point been a stand up comedian. His character is funny in a way that is very believable. He is threatened by Bickle's interest in Betsy as he seems to be himself interested in her. Tom's character was, for the most part, improvised.
"Wizard" is another cabby that Bickle is close to, he plays sort of a father figure to Bickle. Wizard, played by Peter Boyle, tries to give Bickle advice and help him out of his slump that is leading him into psycosis.
Travis Bickle is an ex-marine who takes a job as a New York City cabby in order to occupy his sleepless nights. He is lonely and disaffected. He falls in love with Betsy, a campaign worker at Palentine campaign headquarters. Their courtship ends badly when Travis tries to take Betsy to a dirty movie because he assumes that is what couples do. Travis becomes further alienated when Betsy refuses to take his calls or accept the gifts that he sends her. Bickle buys a small arsenal of handguns and decides to do something about the way the world is. His first plan is to assasinate Palentine, he then changes his mind and decides to rescue Iris from the world that he believes her to be trapped in. He first tries to give her money to escape, when that doesn't work he storms the brownstone where Iris works and kills everyone.
- The final shootout scene was desaturated so that the blood would look less realistic. This was required by the MPAA in order to keep the R rating.
- Martin Scorsese, the film's director, appeared in Taxi Driver several times. He is sitting on the steps of the Palentine compaign headquarters the first time Betsy is shown and he is the guy who talks about killing his wife because she is cheating on him.
- Robert DeNiro was shooting a film in Italy when he was cast for the part. He flew to New York several times over weekends and actually drove a cab in the city as research for the part.
- All of the scenes that take place in the cab were actually shot in the cab on the streets of New York. The cab was never towed for these scenes, DeNiro actually drove and the crew all rode in the cab (the sound man was in the trunk).
- The girl who is shown as Iris' friend in the movie, seen walking with her in several scenes, was actually a 15 year old prostitute from the streets of New York. When she was discovered by Paul Schrader he called Martin Scorsese and told him "I found Iris".
- The famous "You talkin' to me" scene in which Deniro plays with his guns in front of the mirror was improvised.