“THE BEST RELATIONSHIP MARTY EVER HAD WAS WITH ROBBIE ROBERTSON.”

Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Martin Scorsese was introduced to The Band’s Robbie Robertson by the producer of Mean Streets, Jonathon Taplin, who coincidently helped manage the legendary rock group.  Scorsese’s first impression of the guitarist was, “He was cool, far too cool.” This chance meeting and initial impression would turn into a creative collaboration and friendship that stretches on for the better part of four decades, and includes musical collaborations on at least eight Scorsese films.

By 1976 The Band were on their last legs, after more than sixteen years of non-stop touring the stresses of the road had taken their toll.  The members agreed to one last show, to be played on Thanksgiving 1976 at the famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  The show would feature several notable guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, and Eric Clapton amongst others.  I have always found this ironic, given that Rock and Roll is big business today with the attendant merchandising and multi-media cash cow to feed, that a group like The Band that still had tremendous commercial appeal would just hang it up.  Times were less cynical I suppose.


Martin Scorsese, left, and Robbie Robertson traveled to the French Riviera in Cannes, France, in May 1978 to present “The Last Waltz” at the 31st Cannes International Film Festival.  –AP image

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TAXI DRIVER | “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver.  The two had previously collaborated in the 1973 film, Mean Streets.  It’s hard to believe that Scorsese originally offered the role of Travis Bickle to Dustin Hoffman, who turned it down.  Hoffman recalls, “I remember meeting Martin Scorsese.  He had no script and I didn’t even know who he was. I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, ‘What is he talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy!  The film was Taxi Driver.”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  When he signed-on to play Travis Bickle, De Niro was still abroad filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in Italy.  De Niro would finish shooting on a Friday in Rome, get on a plane and fly to New York.  He even obtained an official NYC taxi cab driver’s license, and when on break would pick up a cab and drive long shifts on the streets of New York City for a couple weeks at a time before flying back to Rome.  In typical De Niro form, he shed 30- 35 lbs. for the role and studied the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) to get inside his head.

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1976, New York — Director Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro on the set of  Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  Oliver Stone believes he was the model for De Niro’s Travis Bickle, pointing out that he was being taught by 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.

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