Taxi Driver (1976)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 56 mins

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This classic thriller delves into the complex and dark side of the human psyche through the life of Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. He's a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy, a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris, a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute, who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Matthew. Will Travis succeed in making a positive difference in the world, despite his anti-social nature and unstable mental state?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro

Crew: Martin Scorsese (Director), Michael Chapman (Director of Photography), Bernard Herrmann (Music Director)

Rating: A (India)

Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Release Dates: 08 Feb 1976 (India)

Tagline: On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.

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Did you know? Producer Julia Phillips tells in her auto-biography that Cybill Shepherd had a hard time remembering her lines during the coffee-and-pie scene with Robert De Niro. She writes that De Niro in particular was getting fed up with her and that Phillips and editor Marcia Lucas laughed over all the unusable footage they had to work with in the editing room. Read More
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On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.
He's a lonely forgotten man desperate to prove that he's alive.
Movie Connection(s):
Referenced in: Johnny Suede (English)
Character Error
The black-market gun dealer misidentifies the .380 Astra Constable in his case as a Walther PPK. The guns are very similar, so it could be an easy mistake or a deliberate lie. He tells Travis the Walther PPK .380 replaced the P-38 as the standard German military sidearm in WW2, which is false. The P-38, a full-size pistol, replaced the P-08 (Luger) as the standard military sidearm. The PPK was a compact pistol for use by police (PP stood for Polizeipistole) and personal protection, not as a combat sidearm.

Character Error
Easy Andy claims that the .44 Magnum revolver will "stop a car at a hundred yards, put a round right through the engine block." It actually won't penetrate an engine block at that range, and the shooter will have little hope of damaging or disabling a component of the engine that will disable the vehicle (such as shorting out the battery or causing the coolant to drain out). However, it's obviously part of his sales pitch.

Character Error
The first time Travis has coffee with Betsy, Travis' voice-over states that he had black coffee. A few moments later, milky coffee is visible.

Character Error
According to the exterior shot, and the Then-and-Now Special Feature on the 2-disc DVD, Iris lived at 226 East 13th Street. Travis writes "240 East 13th Street" on the envelope containing the letter and $500.

Character Error
In Travis' anniversary note to his parents, he refers to Father's day in July. It's actually in June.

At one point when Travis and Iris are having breakfast, it can be clearly seen that on her plate is only 3 slices of toast though slightly later when the camera returns there's at least 5.

When Iris eats dinner with Travis while wearing green glasses, her hair changes throughout the scene.

In an earlier version, Iris's timekeeper discovers a weapon on Travis, disarms him, then returns it to him as he's leaving. The scene was edited out, but the gun is still in the timekeeper's hand when he looks at his watch.

When Travis leaves the garage after applying for a taxi driving job, his jacket is unzipped. In the next shot, Travis emerges onto the sidewalk with his jacket halfway zipped.

Travis burns the flowers in the sink. Soon after, when he puts money in an envelope, the flowers are on the floor behind him.

When Travis sits down with Wizard and Doughboy at the Belmore, he orders a cup of coffee. Seconds later, when he puts the Alka-Seltzer tablets into his water glass, a hamburger is on his plate.

When Travis buys the guns from Easy Andy, he buys a S&W model 61, which he was told was a Colt .25. Later, at the range, he fires a Colt .25. In the second range scene, Travis's Colt .38 Special becomes a Colt Detective's Special.

When Travis is talking to the Wizard, facing the street, flashing lights from a police car appear on Travis' face. The camera immediately goes to Wizard, who is facing Travis, with no police car behind him. Seconds later a police car pulls up, lights flashing, across the street.

When Travis is dry firing the .380 pistol towards the camera, his jacket is on. In the next scene, his jacket is off.

The glass into which Travis drops the Alka-Seltzer tablet suddenly appears in front of him. Only a coffee cup was there before.

When Travis and Iris are having breakfast at the coffee shop, the parked cars seen through the window behind Travis, change between every shot.

Crew/Equipment Visible
When Travis is negotiating with Matthew for Iris' services, an off-camera voice says "But no rough stuff." just before Matthew says it.

Crew/Equipment Visible
Reflected in a storefront window, in a drive-by shot of the campaign headquarters.

Crew/Equipment Visible
In the shot from Travis' point of view, when he passes the Palantine office and sees that Betsy is not at her desk, the cameraman and dolly grip are clearly reflected in the window.

Factual Mistake
At the end, (after the police arrive) the camera does an aerial shout over the scene. Sport is still holding his weapon. Whether wounded or dead, the police having passed by, he would not have left the weapon in his hand.

Factual Mistake
While Travis is examining various guns with the gun dealer, the latter states that the German Walther PPK pistol replaced the P.38 pistol during World War II. In fact, only a small number of PPK's were issued to German forces during the war. Most German sidearms were P.38's and Lugers.

Revealing Mistakes
While Travis is checking the .44 Magnum revolver offered by the gun dealer, the cylinder emits a clicking sound while he spins it. In fact, the cylinder of a double action revolver such as this one does not click when it is rotated.

Revealing Mistakes
Before the climatic shoot out scene near the end, Travis approaches Matthew and begins conversation. Matthew becomes agitated and kicks Travis leading him getting shot in the abdomen. As Matthew falls you can see a wire on his left side dangling below his thigh presumably from the gunshot squib.

When the store clerk beats the dead robber, the body goes from sitting up against the counter, to lying down, to sitting up again between shots.

When Travis is shot in the shoulder, he drops the .38 down the stairs. In the next shot, the gun drops to the floor, to his right.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Iris' john shoots Travis in the arm, the gunfire sound occurs a split second after the trigger is pulled.
Paul Schrader wrote the script for "Taxi Driver" in five days. As he was writing, he kept a loaded gun on his desk for motivation and inspiration.

Robert De Niro worked twelve hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.

When Paul Schrader was first writing the script, he believed that he was just writing about "loneliness," but as the process went on he realized he was writing about "the pathology of loneliness." His theory being that, for some reason, some "young men" (such as Schrader himself) subconsciously push others away to maintain their isolation, even though the main source of their torment is this very isolation.

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 19-year-old sister when the film was produced, was cast as her body double for those scenes.

Director Martin Scorsese claims that the most important shot in the movie is when Bickle is on the phone trying to get another date with Betsy. The camera moves to the side slowly and pans down the long, empty hallway next to Bickle, as if to suggest that the phone conversation is too painful and pathetic to bear.

Between the time Robert De Niro signed a $35,000 contract to appear in this film and when it began filming, he won an Oscar for his role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) and his profile soared. The producers were terrified that De Niro would ask for a deserved large pay raise, since Columbia was very discomfited by the project and were looking for excuses to pull the plug on it, but De Niro said he would honor his original deal so the film would get made.

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. Schrader decided to switch the action to New York City only because taxi drivers are far more common there. Schrader's script clicked with both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro when they read it.

Bernard Hermann's wife says that when Scorsese, then relatively unknown, called her famous husband to ask Hermann to do the score, he at first refused saying, "I don't write music for car movies." Hermann only accepted after reading the script, and then wrote a highly original score using dissonant brass to punctuate the inner emotions of Travis. After the initial scoring sessions, Scorsese called his composer again, insisting that he needed one more musical cue--a sting, a single frightening chord. Hermann called back a studio orchestra who were paid a day's work for that one effect. Shortly after that ultimate session, Hermann died at the age of 64. He had begun his film career in Hollywood writing the music for Citizen Kane in 1941.

Paul Schrader wrote the part of Travis with Jeff Bridges in mind.

Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 25 Most Dangerous Movies".

In the coffee and pie scene, Travis orders apple pie with melted cheese. When serial killer Ed Gein was arrested, he asked the police for a slice of apple pie with melted cheese in exchange for a full confession.

Lone assassin John Hinckley's attempt on US President Ronald Reagan's life (Monday 30 March 1981) was apparently triggered by Robert De Niro's obsessive Travis Bickle and his plot to assassinate a presidential candidate. Coincidentally the assassination attempt caused the 53rd Academy Awards ceremonies to be postponed for one day until Tuesday 31 March 1981 when De Niro won his Best Actor Oscar for Raging Bull (1980).

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.

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.

Harvey Keitel was originally offered the part of the campaign worker, eventually played by Albert Brooks. He decided to take the role as the pimp, even though in the script he was black and only had about five lines.

In Paul Schrader's original screenplay, the characters of Sport, the Mafioso and the hotel clerk were all black. Martin Scorsese felt that, combined with other events in the film, this would have stacked the deck too much towards racism, and suggested that those characters be changed to white men. Schrader relented.

The girl with whom Martin Scorsese studied in order to prepare for the role of Iris (played by Jodie Foster, the actress who won the role) also appears in the film, as Iris' friend on the street.

The clash between Martin Scorsese, the MPAA and the executives at Columbia over the violent content of this film has gone into legend. One of the biggest rumors is that, when facing an X rating from the MPAA and having to edit the film, Scorsese stayed up all night drinking with a loaded gun in his hand, preparing to shoot the executive at Columbia the next day. After an entire night of persuasion from his friends, Scorsese decided to mute the colors in the violent climax and subsequently got his R rating. There are many variations on this legend, one saying that Scorsese was actually planning to take his OWN life; another says that he actually brought the gun to Columbia and threatened the executive until the executive relented.

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).

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.

Even though then 12-year-old Jodie Foster played a very adult role in the movie, she would have been ineligible to attend the premiere unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian due to the "R" rating.

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.

The producers were looking for a "Cybill Shepherd" type to play the female lead in the film. When agent Sue Mengers heard this, she reportedly called them and asked why not hire Cybill Shepherd.

Robert De Niro has claimed that the "You talkin' to me?" scene was inspired by Bruce Springsteen's banter with his audience at a mid-'70s gig.

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.

Robert De Niro's on-and-off girlfriend in the 70s, Diahnne Abbott, appears as the concession girl in the porno theater near the beginning of the film.

Due to injuries sustained in an accident during the production of the 1975 movie The Farmer (1977) actor George Memmoli had to decline the bit-part of the Travis's disturbed passenger who was ultimately played by the film's director Martin Scorsese.

This was the last Columbia feature to use the classic Torch Lady logo in her classic appearance.

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.

Producer Julia Phillips tells in her auto-biography that Cybill Shepherd had a hard time remembering her lines during the coffee-and-pie scene with Robert De Niro. She writes that De Niro in particular was getting fed up with her and that Phillips and editor Marcia Lucas laughed over all the unusable footage they had to work with in the editing room.

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. The opportunity to reverse her role in this film, and also distance herself from Hinkley, is in part what inspired Foster to take the role of the heroine and rescuer in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Ironically, Harvey Keitel would play her future mentor in the prequel, Red Dragon (2002).

When Travis calls Betsy from a payphone to apologize for having taken her to a porno movie (Ur kärlekens språk (1969)), he makes that call from the lobby of The Ed Sullivan Theater (1697 Broadway).

The cab Travis drove was Checker. They stopped production after 1982 and the last one in New York City was retired in 1999.

Steven Prince improvised the list of additional illegal things Easy Andy had for sale after Travis buys the gun.

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.

When Travis is talking to a Secret Service agent, he gives his address as 154 Hopper Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey. There is a Hopper Avenue in Fair Lawn, but there is no 154 Hopper Avenue.

The olive-colored army coat Travis is wearing, is a pre-mid 70's M65 jacket.

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.

Oliver Stone believes he was one of the models for Travis Bickle, pointing out that he was being taught by Martin Scorsese at NYU film school at the time, and like Travis he was a Vietnam veteran turned N.Y.C. cabdriver and wore his olive drab army coat while on duty.

The restaurant where the cabbies gather to eat was a real-life hangout for taxi drivers called the Belmore Cafeteria at 28th St. and Park Avenue South. It has since been demolished, but the apartment building that replaced it is named the Belmore.

Robert De Niro studied Midwestern dialects to come up with Travis Bickle's flat voice.

In the lyrics to their song "Red Angel Dragnet," long-running British rock band The Clash mention Travis by name and then include two Travis quotes: "one of these days I'm gonna get myself organized," and, "all the animals come out at night: queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick venal - some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets."

Robert De Niro's Mohawk was not real, due to the fact that De Niro still had to shoot scenes for the film with hair after the Mohawk portions. Makeup artist Dick Smith created a bald cap that was glued to De Niro's head and the mohawk was made of thick horse hair. That hairpiece is currently at the Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, New York.

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. Some people believe that Travis actually dies in the shootout (and that the final sequences of the movie are a wish-fulfillment in Travis' head) so that would raise the body count to five.

Martin Scorsese was reluctant to edit the climactic (and very bloody) shootout to avoid an X rating. However, he was amused by the changes ordered by the MPAA, because they made the final scene even more shocking than had originally been intended.

Many critics and fans have speculated that Travis Bickle actually dies during the climatic shootout, and the scenes where he recovers, is thanked by Iris' parents via letter, and talks to Betsy when she happens to ride in his taxi by chance, are either his dying delusions or pure fantasy. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader both provided commentary on laserdisc/DVD releases of the film that deny this theory. Scorsese said that the cab ride with Travis and Betsy is a real event, with Travis's ambiguous look after she leaves the cab indicating uncertainty over his own thoughts. Schrader's comments were that Travis "is not cured" after surviving the shootout, and the writer added "next time, he's not going to be a hero".

Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter speculated that Travis Bickle's character wasn't a Vietnam War veteran at all, and his behavior could indicate a man so disturbed that he chose a war veteran "look" as a way to somehow connect to the post-war society. However, Martin Scorsese has confirmed in interviews that Bickle was definitely a Vietnam veteran: he said that Bickle's mental instability tied into the nation's feelings after the war ended in 1975, and also that the Mohawk haircut Travis gets before the climatic violent rampage was inspired by soldiers in Vietnam who would have their hair styled that way before major battles.

Director Martin Scorsese's parents (Charles Scorsese and Catherine Scorsese) appear as Iris' parents in the newspaper article hanging on Travis' wall at the end of the movie.

Due to the bloody content of the brothel shootout scene, cinematographer Michael Chapman agreed to desaturate the colors in post-production. This explains why the blood appears to be pink instead of red in that scene. Later, when the DVD was being prepared, Martin Scorsese wanted to replace it with the original shot, with the blood in its original vivid redness, but no print of that original scene could be found, so the DVD still has the muted colors.