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Trivia / Taxi Driver

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: When Bickle decides to assassinate Senator Palantine, he cuts his hair into a Mohawk. This detail was suggested by actor Victor Magnotta, a friend of Martin Scorsese's who had a small role as a Secret Service agent and who had served in Vietnam. Scorsese later noted:
    Magnotta had talked about certain types of soldiers going into the jungle. They cut their hair in a certain way; looked like a Mohawk ... and you knew that was a special situation, a commando kind of situation, and people gave them wide berths ... we thought it was a good idea.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Harvey Keitel was originally offered the role of Charles. He chose the role of Sport, even though the character was black and only had three lines.
  • Creator Breakdown: The story was partially autobiographical for Paul Schrader, who suffered a nervous breakdown while living in Los Angeles. He was fired from the AFI, basically friendless, in the midst of a divorce and was rejected by a girlfriend. Squatting in his ex-girlfriend's apartment while she was away for a couple of months, Schrader literally didn't talk to anyone for many weeks, went to porno theaters and developed an obsession with guns. Schrader was working at the time as delivery man for a chain of chicken restaurants. Spending long days alone in his car, he felt—I might as well be a taxi driver. He also shared with Bickle the sense of isolation from being a mid-Westerner in an urban center.
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  • Dawson Casting: A controversial aversion with 12-year-old Jodie Foster playing a 12-year-old prostitute in a graphically violent film (she turned 13 when the film was finally released). She had to go through psychological analysis to prove she could handle the role, and her older sister acted as her body double for some scenes.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Robert De Niro coached Jodie Foster for her scenes, focusing on helping her develop Iris as a character, instead of just reading lines. Foster later cited De Niro's work as the first serious mentoring she'd had for her acting.
  • Doing It for the Art: Due to winning an Oscar between signing on and filming, Columbia was briefly worried that they wouldn't be able to afford Robert De Niro but he agreed to do the film for the same amount he'd signed on for despite the fact that he could have asked for much more.
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  • Dyeing for Your Art: Robert De Niro surprisingly did not shave his head for the role (the film was shot out of sequence, and he was shooting Novecento in Italy as well). He did however drive a cab for twelve hours a day, studied mental illness and, while he was on location in Italy for 1900, visited the nearest US Army bases and sought out soldiers from the Midwest so that he could pick up their accent.
  • Executive Meddling: In order to avoid the X Rating, the censors asked Scorsese to tone down the redness of the blood in the final shoot-out. Scorsese notes that the censor's decision actually made it even worse somehow. Cinematographer Michael Chapman disagrees however and he regrets the loss of the original colour of the scene.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny:
    • The famous "You Talkin' to Me?" scene was written in the script as "Travis talks in the mirror" and the rest was improvised by Robert De Niro. Martin Scorsese was stooped just below the camera silently encouraging De Niro to keep going. What De Niro was saying is a common exercise used by actors to practice different interpretations of a similar phrase.
    • The rest of the movie has this as well. The parts of Tom, Sport, Betsy and The Wizard were supposedly fairly underwritten in the script. The casting of Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel led to lots of improvisation and expansion, with Keitel's role in particular expanding from a mere five lines to a larger scene of dialog that made him one of the most memorable aspects of the movie.
  • He Also Did: Leonard Harris (Sen. Charles Palantine) was a longtime New York-based writer and critic, and this was the first of just two film acting roles during his long career (the 1980 John Ritter comedy Hero at Large was the other, and Harris played a politician there as well).
  • In Memoriam: The end credits finish with one of these to Bernard Herrmann, who died just days after completing the score.
  • Inspiration for the Work: In writing the script, Paul Schrader was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground.
  • Life Imitates Art: John Hinckley's was inspired to try to assassinate Ronald Reagan because of this film.
  • Method Acting: Robert De Niro worked fifteen hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.
  • Posthumous Credit: Released about a year after Bernard Herrmann's death.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Martin Scorsese's parents appear as Iris' parents in the newspaper article hanging on Travis' wall at the end of the movie.
    • Jodie Foster's elder sister doubled for her in the more explicit scenes.
  • Referenced by...:
    • The Clash Sampled Travis' "wash the scum off the streets" speech for their song "Red Angel Dragnet" on their 1982 album Combat Rock.
    • Rollins Band's "Disconnect" video is modeled on the film, with Henry Rollins in the Travis Bickle role.
    • Shadow Warrior (2013) has a cutscene where Lo Wang shaves his head while lampshading he is giving himself an Important Haircut, like in Taxi Driver.
    • Sheev Palpatine, the most important villain in the entire Star Wars franchise, was named after Senator Palantine.
  • Throw It In!:
    • Martin Scorsese's cameo was completely unplanned as the actor that had been hired got sick. He states he hates being on camera and only did it out of desperation although some thought he did very well.
    • Travis' famous You Talkin' to Me? scene was ad libbed by Robert De Niro. The script called for Travis to look at himself in the mirror, and maybe talk to himself. De Niro adapted a stand-up routine he'd seen in an NYC comedy club, and demonstrated that sometimes changing the context makes things make more sense.
    • Albert Brooks improvised many of his lines.
    • Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster improvised their scene together.
    • Steven Prince improvised the list of additional illegal things Easy Andy had for sale after Travis buys the gun.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: And not just because of the fashions. At the time it was filmed, New York City was America's crime capital, the city was effectively bankrupt, and Watergate was still fresh on the public mind. Not to mention there's a brief scene in a porno cinema.
  • What Could Have Been:
  • Write What You Know: Paul Schrader used himself as inspiration; in a 1981 interview with Tom Snyder on the "Tomorrow" show, Schrader related his experience living in New York City while battling chronic insomnia, which led him to frequent pornographic bookstores and theaters because they remained open all night. Following a divorce and a breakup with a live-in girlfriend, he spent a few weeks living in his car. After visiting a hospital for a stomach ulcer, Schrader wrote the screenplay for Taxi Driver in "under a fortnight", recalling that "When I was talking to the nurse, I realised I hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks ... that was when the metaphor of the taxi occurred to me. That is what I was: this person in an iron box, a coffin, floating round the city, but seemingly alone".
  • This film was one of the final films to start with the 1936-1976 Columbia "Torch Lady".


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