Casting a 12-year-old Jodie Foster to play the underage prostitute, Iris, raised some red flags. This according to the Hollywood Reporter (THR) in an interview on the eve of Tribeca Film Festival. The Festival will celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Taxi Driver” with a screening reuniting the cast and filmmakers on April 21, 2016.
Since it’s premiere in 1976, the film has lost none of its disturbing and affecting power. For fans, this conversation is a must-read and provides new insights into the making of an American classic considered by many one of the greatest films of all-time.
In the interview, Jodie Foster tells THR “Part of the deal was that any scenes that felt uncomfortable sexually, they would have an adult be a stand-in. So my sister Connie, who was over 18, stood in for a couple of over-the-shoulder shots.” Foster values her time spent on making the film and explains to THR, “I’m just so grateful to have been part of something that’s really an American classic, part of our golden age of cinema, which to me really is the ’70s.”
Taxi Driver has, at times, been described as a vigilante film with neo-noir and psychological thriller elements. Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader the film is set in New York City following the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro, and features a talented cast including Jodie Foster in her break-out role, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle and Albert Brooks.
It is interesting to note that with four seemingly innocuous words, “You talkin’ to me?”, Robert De Niro cemented himself into the American psyche and Martin Scorsese catapulted into the ranks of world-class directors. Working from a screenplay by Paul Schrader, an indelible portrait of Travis Bickle, emerged. That of a lonely, disturbed and alienated burned-out Vietnam Vet, honorably discharged from the Marines and living a lonely, depressed life in New York City. He toils as a New York taxi driver to cope with his chronic insomnia. He haunts the streets nightly, driving passengers around the boroughs of New York City. He grows increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleansing the filthy city. He also spends his time in seedy porn theaters and keeps a diary chronicling his observations.
The cast also includes a cameo by Scorsese himself who plays a stalking, cuckolded, husband bent on revenge. Legendary composer Bernard Herrmann finished conducting the score the day before he passed away, and Michael Chapman atmospherically photographed it on the mean streets of New York. It captured the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, plus a slew of critics’ awards, as well as Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Original Score, Actor and Supporting Actress.
Taxi Driver is regularly cited by critics, film directors, and audiences alike as one of the greatest films of all time. Roger Ebert, noted film critic gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it won the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. The American Film Institute ranked Taxi Driver as the 52nd-greatest American film on its AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list. In 2012, Sight & Sound named it the 31st-best film ever in its decennial critics’ poll, ranked with The Godfather Part II, and the fifth-greatest film of all time on its directors’ poll. The film was considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant by the US Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1994.
“Taxi Driver” Trivia per IMDB:
Robert De Niro worked fifteen hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.
Jodie Foster was 12 years old when the movie was filmed, so she could not do the more explicit scenes (her character was also 12 years old). Connie Foster, Jodie’s older sister who was 19 when the film was produced, was cast as her body double for those scenes.
The scene where Travis Bickle is talking to himself in the mirror was completely ad-libbed by Robert De Niro. The screenplay details just said, “Travis looks in the mirror.” Martin Scorsese claims that he got the inspiration for the scene from Marlon Brando mouthing words in front of a mirror in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Robert De Niro has said that, despite having won an Oscar for The Godfather: Part II (1974), he was still a relatively unfamiliar face and was only actually recognized once while driving a New York cab during his research for this film.
Paul Schrader wrote the part of Travis with Jeff Bridges in mind.
Harvey Keitel rehearsed with actual pimps to prepare for his role. The scene where his character and Iris dance is improvised, and is one of only two scenes in the film that don’t focus on Bickle.
Martin Scorsese has said he offered the role of Travis Bickle to Dustin Hoffman. According to Hoffman, he turned the role down because he “thought [Scorsese] was crazy!” He has since regretted his decision.
Robert De Niro claimed that the final shootout scene took particularly long, because of both technical problems and the humor which arose from the tension created by the carnage in the scene.
Travis Bickle’s famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene may have been inspired by Robert De Niro’s training under Stella Adler, who (as an exercise) had her students practice different interpretations of a similar phrase. The legendary acting teacher was surprised to see one of her former students use “You talkin’ to me?” as a psychotic mantra. Martin Scorsese was encouraging De Niro just below the camera while shooting the scene, which lead to the rest of the “dialogue” Bickle has with his mirror.
Before Jodie Foster was eventually cast as Iris, there were more than 250 applicants for the role, including newcomers Carrie Fisher, Mariel Hemingway, Bo Derek, Kim Cattrall, Rosanna Arquette, Kristy McNichol and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The line “You talking to me?” was voted as the #10 movie quote by the American Film Institute, and as as the #8 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
Brian De Palma was also considered to direct but the producers were dragged to a private screening of Mean Streets (1973) (Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese’s previous collaboration) before they told Scorsese he could direct, but only if he got De Niro to play the lead.
The cab Travis drove was Checker. They stopped production after 1982 and the last one in New York City was retired in 1999.
Bernard Herrmann’s score is intentionally devoid of strings, giving the overall thrust of the soundtrack more ‘muscle’.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #52 Greatest Movie of All Time.
At the porno theater Travis purchases two Clark bars, two boxes of Goobers, one box of Chuckles, a Royal Crown cola, and a box of popcorn… for $1.85!
Ads for films starring Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson can be seen in the film. Like Robert De Niro in this film, Eastwood and Bronson have also portrayed vigilantes on screen.
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and Martin Scorsese; and two Oscar nominees: Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel.
Due to a garbage strike, much of the on-screen filth is real.
Paul Schrader decided to make Bickle a Vietnam vet because the national trauma of the war seemed to blend perfectly with Bickle’s paranoid psychosis, making his experiences after the war more intense and threatening. Thus, Bickle chooses to drive his taxi anywhere in the city as a way to feed his hate.
Despite being criticized for its violence, only four characters die: the armed robber in the corner shop that Travis shoots, the pimp, the Mafioso and the doorman.
In this film, Jodie Foster plays a woman held captive by the villain, played by Harvey Keitel. Robert De Niro’s actions in this film provoked John Hinckley, who was obsessed with Foster, to try to get her attention by shooting President Ronald Reagan.